Category Archives: TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY

Conference of European Churches Peace Conference 2019

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An announcement from the Conference of European Churches

CEC [Conference of European Churches] will be holding a Peace Conference from 10 to 12 September 2019 at the Institut Protestant de Théologie, Paris, France. 

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Question for this article

Religion: a barrier or a way to peace?, What makes it one or the other?

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The conference will be held as part of the CEC 60th anniversary this year, focusing on the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, identifying its legacies and the hard lessons learnt from the European and global past, and search for new and creative ways of peace building in the 21st Century.

This conference will also identify the current threats to peace in Europe and will articulate the challenges presented by the global experiences of the 21st century. In doing so, it will draw inspiration from the role and work of the Conference of European Churches as an ecumenical organisation engaged with peacebuilding, reconciliation and the healing of memories.

The 2019 Peace Conference will reflect on the contemporary world and identify a theological way of living and acting that can enable CEC and its Member Churches to engage faithfully and practically in transformation, healing and reconciliation.

For more information, contact Ms Charlie Belot.

Geneva: Conference on ‘Promoting Peace Together’ Promoting Human Fraternity and Harmonious Co-existence through Dialogue

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY

An announcement from the World Council of Churches

The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) have jointly produced the document ‘Education for Peace in a Multi-religious World – A Christian Perspective’. The document aims to make a constructive contribution to peace-making and explores the vital role that education can play in cultivating a culture of peace.


Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

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Question related to this article:
 
How can different faiths work together for understanding and harmony?

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The [conference] will focus on two historic documents related to peace-making, namely the document on ‘Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’ jointly signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi in February, 2019, and  ‘Education for Peace, in a Multi-religious World: A Christian Perspective’ – jointly prepared by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) and the World Council of Churches, which will be officially launched at the end of the event.

The WCC office of Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation (WCC-IRDC) and PCID have a very long tradition of undertaking joint projects with focus in peacebuilding, education and harmonious co-existence in a multi-religious world.
 
WHEN: 21st May 2019, 14:00 to 17:00

WHERE: The Ecumenical Centre, Geneva

For further information, please contact: (Rev. Dr Peniel Rajkumar) peniel.rajkumar@wcc-coe.org

Detailed Program will follow

 

 Haiti – Dominican Republic : “For a culture of peace at the binational level”, theme of the 8th edition (2019) of the week of the diaspora

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

An article from Alterpresse (translation by CPNN)

The 8th edition of the week of the diaspora takes place, from Monday 22 to Sunday 28 April 2019, in the Dominican Republic, around the theme “For a culture of peace at the binational level,” says AlterRadio Edwin Paraison, executive director of the Zile Foundation.

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(Click here for the original artile in French.)

Question related to this article:

Solidarity across national borders, What are some good examples?>

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The activities will begin in the afternoon of Monday, April 22, 2019, in the presence of representatives of the Haitian and Dominican authorities, among others.

A craft exhibition takes place on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, in the heart of tourist Santo Domingo.among the activities announced.

Among the activities announced are the “diaspora” awards, the organization of a baseball game in San Pedro de Macoris (Eastern Dominican Republic), between a Haitian team and another Dominican, and the holding of an ecumenical ceremony.

The university “Acción pro educación y cultura” (Apec) will host the academic activities, with two conferences on binational tourism and Haitian-Dominican relations, as well as a workshop of coaching, personal motivation and community leadership, according to the Espacinsular website.

The 8th edition of Diaspora Week aims to strengthen ties between the two peoples and promote cultural, tourist and commercial exchanges.

April 20 is the date chosen in Haiti to mark the national day of the diaspora.

Vatican’s second conference on nonviolence renews hope for encyclical

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An article by Joshua J. McElwee in the National Catholic Reporter

Theologians, activists and bishops who took part in a Vatican conference earlier this month on the power of nonviolence to bring about social change are expressing hope that a future papal encyclical or teaching document will reexamine the Catholic Church’s teachings on war.   


Participants gather in Vatican City April 4 for a meeting, co-hosted by Pax Christi International and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, on the power of nonviolence to bring about social change. (Pax Christi International/Johnny Zokovitch)

Participants in the April 4-5 meeting, co-hosted by Pax Christi International and the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said the reflections shared by the about 80 attendees provided ample material for Pope Francis to consider for a possible encyclical.

“Nonviolent strategies should be the centerpiece to the church’s approach to issues of war and peace and violence,” San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, one of the event’s participants, told NCR.

Although McElroy said he was unsure whether Francis would want to devote an encyclical to the issue, he said it “would be helpful if the magisterium and the pope move toward a much fuller mainstreaming of the concept of nonviolence as an active force in the world as the central Christian response to elements of armed conflict and military engagement.”

Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi, said that a papal encyclical on nonviolence would bring the concept “from the periphery of Catholic thought on war and peace to the center, mainstreaming nonviolence as a spirituality, lifestyle, a program of societal action and a universal ethic.”

“It would contribute in important ways to a culture of nonviolence and integral peace for the church and the world,” she said.

The April event was the second of its kind, following a 2016 meeting at the Vatican that reevaluated the church’s long-held teachings on just war theory, a tradition that uses a series of criteria to evaluate whether use of violence can be considered morally justifiable.

A number of theologians have criticized continued use of the theory in modern times, saying that both the powerful capabilities of modern weapons and evidence of the effectiveness of nonviolent campaigns make it outdated.

The participants of the earlier event had called on Francis to consider writing an encyclical on the issue. They declared in a final statement: “There is no ‘just war.’ ”

Judy Coode, who helped organize the April 2019 meeting as coordinator of Pax Christi’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, said the event was intended to “deepen a conversation on the church’s role in teaching and promoting nonviolence.”

Coode said her organization had been preparing the conference for about a year, tasking five working groups around the world to write papers on specific aspects of nonviolence that would be discussed at the gathering.

Among those taking part in the meeting were officials with the Vatican dicastery, including Cardinal Peter Turkson, representatives of various bishops’ conferences, Catholic organizations such as Caritas Internationalis, nonviolence activists from various conflict zones, and military chaplains.

Also present for the discussions were Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey; Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, Uganda; and Archbishop José Luis Azuaje of Maracaibo, Venezuela, president of his country’s national conference. Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich could not attend, but sent a letter to the participants.

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Question for this article

Religion: a barrier or a way to peace?, What makes it one or the other?

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McElroy described the presentations at the two-day event as “a very poignant series of engagements with tremendously haunting and tragic and yet hopeful situations around the world, where violence has been effectively combated and deterred by nonviolent action.”

“Many people were discussing how, on the ground, adopting a stance of nonviolence toward what would usually be thought of as situations where violence was the answer had in fact resulted in better, more humane, longer-lasting, [and] more just outcomes,” he said.

Dennis noted that many of the participants had come from communities experiencing violence and spoke about nonviolence “as a spirituality, a distinct virtue, a way of life rooted in the Gospel, and a potentially powerful tool for transforming violent situations.”

“It was very encouraging to see such a diverse group of people with very different roles in the church and from different contexts and cultures fully engaged in articulating a way … to promote a paradigm shift in a violent world toward cultures of nonviolence and just peace,” she said.
Fr. Emmanuel Katongole, a native Ugandan who is a theologian at the University of Notre Dame and also took part in the meeting, suggested that Francis was already “ahead” of the event’s participants with his focus on nonviolence.

Katongole pointed to how the pope frequently speaks of the church as being like a field hospital in the midst of battle, and to Francis’ decision to focus his message for 2017’s World Day of Peace on nonviolence as “a style of politics for peace.”

“You can see that he is already moving in that direction; he is already in a way ahead of us,” said Katongole, whose work has focused on violence and reconciliation across Africa.

“We are not really proposing something new,” he said. “Pope Francis is already ahead of us in this call to nonviolence.”

Terrence Rynne, another conference participant, said he was impressed by the way the event brought in experts from various continents and by the involvement of the bishops present.

“That was the most striking part of it for me, that it was the global church present,” said Rynne, a theologian who is also an NCR board member. He likewise praised the role of Pax Christi’s Dennis, who helped Coode arrange all the details of the event with the Vatican dicastery.

Dennis, whose term co-leading the international organization is ending this summer after 12 years, was also praised by Fr. John Dear, another participant in the meeting.

“Over the years of this process, Marie Dennis has emerged as one of the most important and influential leaders right now in the global church,” said Dear, who is known for his extensive spiritual writings and peace activism.

“Her extraordinary leadership, along with the openness of the Vatican dicastery, I think, is going to bear tremendous good fruit for the global church,” he said.

Katongole said that during the meeting he was reflecting on the fact that the event was taking place near the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which was marked April 7.

He remembered speaking some years ago to a bishop from the country who noted that some Catholics had participated in the killing and said his greatest challenge was “forming people who can say no to killing.”

“For me, the Rwanda genocide is in the back of my mind, and the question of this bishop: How do we form Christians who can say no to killing?” said Katongole. “The call of the Gospel is a call to nonviolence as the way of God.”

He said that if Francis chose to write an encyclical on nonviolence it would “set a tone for the church” that would “free our imagination from the inevitability of war and violence.”

Katongole said he imagined that such an encyclical would contain reflections on places where nonviolent strategies have worked, calling them “stories of hope, where you can see this already in place.”

“It will be really an encyclical about hope,” he said. “I think Pope Francis more than any pope … is more in a position to make this clarion call.”

Churches in South Sudan promote “three pillars of peace”

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An article from the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) representative Bishop Isaiah Majok Dau spoke about how churches are spearheading dialogue in his country through what the Pentecostal Church leader describes as the “three pillars of peace”.   


Bishop Isaiah Majok Dau, presiding bishop of the Sudan Pentecostal Church. Photo: LWF/A. Danielsson

Changing the narrative of violence

Advocacy, Bishop Dau said, is “the first pillar of peace” in his country, with the goal of “changing the narrative of violence” among communities, families and political leaders. That advocacy work includes the vital task of engaging on social media with South Sudanese living outside the country, many of whom use hate speech to promote their political ideas.

The second pillar of peace, Dau continued, is providing “a neutral forum” where opposition leaders, or others who cannot come to the capital Juba for security reasons, have an opportunity to speak and share their concerns. The church serves as “a bridge between them, wherever there is contention between the government and other communities,” he said, explaining how opposition leader Riek Machar was able to communicate through this forum with the government when he was in exiled in South Africa. The bishop said he recently held talks with opposition leaders in Juba and had just returned from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he met with opposition politician, Thomas Cirrillo in order to press for dialogue and reconciliation.

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Question for this article

Religion: a barrier or a way to peace?, What makes it one or the other?

Can peace be achieved in South Sudan?

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The third pillar, Dau said, “is called peace and reconciliation” promoting forgiveness among communities in South Sudan that have been fragmented by conflict. These concepts are not included in the peace agreement, he said, so “we, as a church, want to be a bridge to reconcile communities, to speak to hearts and to renew their faith in each other in dialogue.”  

Learning “to talk, rather than take up guns”

The goal, he added, is “to create a culture of peace” so that people learn “to talk, rather than take up guns” and their disagreements over borders, land rights or cattle rustling are not resolved by resorting to violence. The framework that the SSCC has developed includes tools for trauma healing, economic empowerment and a correct use of resources, making it an invaluable asset for reaching out to the wider non-Christian community.

Questioned about how to make these tools available to remote grassroots communities, Dau said the church is present throughout the country and is “the only institution which can go where the government can’t go.” Even in “very rural areas like Jonglei State between the Murle and the Dinka” or between the “Turkana and the Karamojong in Uganda, we are the ones working through the grass roots on reconciliation,” he stressed.

“We base our message on hope,” the bishop concluded, telling people “the best is yet to come for South Sudan [so] don’t give up, because one day we will live in peace.” Quoting Jesus’ own message of peace from the New Testament, he said: “The gospel of hope is our biblical message and it comes out in all three pillars of peace.”

The Lutheran communion’s work among South Sudanese goes back to the 1980s. The LWF currently assists over 300,000 people inside the country and hundreds of thousands more who have sought refuge in neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Capacity building in human rights and advocacy both at the local and international levels targets both government institutions and civil society organizations.

Bishop Isaiah Majok  Dau was one of the panelists at a side event organized by the LWF during the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Amnesty International: After Christchurch, how to beat Islamophobia and hate

… . HUMAN RIGHTS … .

An article by Osama Bhutta, Communications Director of Amnesty International

Racists and bigots believe that diverse societies don’t work. Frustrated that their howling at the moon wasn’t enough, they’re now picking up weapons in an attempt to prove themselves right. We can’t keep expressing shock and then moving on until the next outrage. We watched in astonished horror last year when a Nazi entered a US synagogue and shot dead 11 worshippers. And yet after the initial alarm, the world carried on like before.

These haters are destabilising our societies and concerted action needs to be taken before things get even worse.

To be clear, this isn’t just about western societies. Many Muslims see Christchurch as a small part of a global rising tide of Islamophobia perpetrated by insecure majorities. Let’s take a whistle-stop world tour from east to west.

In Myanmar, decades of hate speech and persecution culminated in 2017 with over 700,000 predominantly Muslim Rohingya having to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh after a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing. The implicated military in Myanmar has been given plenty of diplomatic cover by China, whose authorities are currently holding up to 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups   in euphemistically titled “transformation-through-education” camps in Xinjiang. It’s one of the stories of our age, subjugation on an epic scale.

India’s historic multi-faith character has taken a hit under the leadership of Narendra Modi, a man who was chief minister during the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Muslims. His brand of Hindu nationalism has led to divisiveness rather than unity, leading to growing phenomena such as “cow-related violence”.

Many politicians across Europe have been gaining ground by peddling anti-Muslim messages. France’s Marine Le Pen compared Muslims spilling onto pavements from packed mosques after Friday prayers to Nazi occupiers. A key message of the Brexit campaign was the “threat” of Turkey joining the EU. Arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage once accused British Muslims of having “split loyalties”.

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Question(s) related to this article:

What is the state of human rights in the world today?

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The biggest beneficiary of ballot box Islamophobia though is Donald Trump with his campaign promise of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. He said that this ban would stay in place until the country’s representatives “can figure out what the hell is going on”. Presumably, despite all his intelligence, he’s still not got a grasp of it. Trump arrived on the back of a generation of Islamophobia which went hand-in-hand with the controversial wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which let us not forget, resulted in the still barely acknowledged deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslims.

When the global picture is this grim, it’s little wonder that many Muslims feel embattled. Especially when they are also being told that despite these tragic numbers, they are actually the aggressors.

This is not, however, a religious conflict. The millions of Muslims who have lost their lives, been put in detention, or repressed in other multifaceted ways, have not been treated this way as part of a religious war. These are not the new crusades. The perpetrators are too diverse and too disparate for this to be case. So are the victims. Christians are also repressed in China, Pakistan and Indonesia. Christian and Muslim Palestinians face violence and discrimination every day in the context of Israel’s occupation of their territory. France and Germany reported disturbingly sharp rises in anti-Semitism last year; who can forget the distressing images of swastikas daubed across graves in Jewish cemeteries in Herrlisheim and Quatzenheim in eastern France? In light of the evidence,  a ‘War on Islam’ thesis doesn’t add up.

This is about how nation states treat their minorities. In this respect, Muslim-majority states are also often found wanting. Infamously there are no churches in Saudi Arabia. Given these circumstances, it was no surprise to see Saudi Arabia’s crown prince giving endorsement  to China’s treatment of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

Harmony isn’t going to be achieved if only we had more interfaith dialogue and more mosque open days. Tackling this threat effectively requires a radical rethink about how we talk about freedom, equality and respect for all.

The strength of a nation lies in how well you treat all your people. It’s a mark of strength when you celebrate everyone who lives alongside you. We move forward when everyone has the freedom to live their lives as they wish, to contribute to their society as they see fit, and to be the people they want to be.

I grew up in Scotland and am proud of my nationality and my faith. We used to say that it takes many different coloured threads to make tartan, just as it takes many different types of people to make Scotland.  Every culture around the world must find their language to bring people together, rather than to drive them apart. In 1945, the Nazis were defeated through war. This time, we’ll beat the haters through the force of our love, compassion and shared humanity.

United Nations: ‘Global clarion call’ for youth to shape efforts to forge peace in the most dangerous combat zones

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from UN News

The First International Symposium on Youth Participation  in Peace Processes concluded on Wednesday in Helsinki, Finland, with a global policy paper, according to reports, that aims to integrate their efforts, interventions and contributions towards sustaining the search for peaceful solutions to conflict.


Click on image to enlarge

In her keynote address, General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa highlighted Youth, Peace and Security as one of her seven priorities.

She called young people “agents of change” and outlined examples in which they have helped foster inter-communal dialogue, such as in Kenya, and consolidate peace, such as in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other countries.

Ms. Espinosa also addressed the importance of gender equality, decent work and the support for young migrants and refugees. 

The General Assembly President concluded by underscoring that the world must improve youth participation in national and international decision-making and encouraged Member States to embrace young people in their delegations and to work closely with the Office of the Secretary-General’s  Youth Envoy,  Jayathma Wickramanayake.

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Question for this article

Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

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With over half of the world’s population under-30 and an estimated 600 million youth living in fragile and conflict-affected States, it is apparent that young people must engage in conflict prevention and mediation processes – a domain where they are often marginalized. 

“Young people account for a considerable share of people living in the developing world and in conflict areas but they are often left outside of the scope of all decision-making in society, including peace processes”, said Timo Soini, Foreign Minister for Finland, one of the governments co-hosting the event.

For her part, the Youth Envoy called the Symposium “the global clarion call for a collective response in bringing voice and credibility to young people on the frontlines actively leading efforts to shape peace processes”.

Considering their sheer numbers and vital force, young people are key participants in development, democracy, peace-sustaining initiatives and peacebuilding interventions. As such, they must be empowered as decision makers to actively and meaningfully contribute to peace processes that affect their lives, according to the UN Envoy’s office.

“Young people are bridges”, said youth participant Leonardo Parraga. “They play a key role in connecting local actors like civil society organizations, with decision-making actors that have a seat inside the room”.

At the two-day Symposium ending on Wednesday, inter-generational participants exchanged views and best practices on involving young people in both formal and informal peace processes. Youth attendees, moderated, facilitated and acted as rapporteurs throughout all plenary discussions and working groups.

Noting “progress in advancing the Youth, Peace and Security agenda” Ms. Wickramanayake asserted:  “We cannot stop now”.

The event was co-hosted by the Governments of Finland, Qatar, and Colombia, and co-organized by the office of the UN’s Youth Envoy and Search For Common Ground in partnership with the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, UN Population Fund, UN Development Programme and the United Network of Young Peacebuilders.

Milan, Italy: Anti-racism protesters denounce Italy’s right-wing government

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An article from Deutsche Welle (reprinted by permission)

Tens of thousands of people took to Milan’s streets on Saturday to protest against what they said are racist policies promoted by the national government.

The demonstrators played bongo drums and trumpets as they gathered in front of the Duomo under the slogan “Prima le persone” (people first).

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Question for this article

The refugee crisis, Who is responsible?

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The phrase plays on the “Prima gli Italiani” (Italians first) slogan used by Italy’s anti-immigrant interior minister, Matteo Salvini.

The rally was a “powerful political testimonial that Italy is not just the country that it is currently being described as,” said Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala.

Milan’s social issues councilor, Pierfrancesco Majorino, claimed on Twitter that 200,000 people had shown up for the protest.
“Salvini, count us,” he said.

CGIL labor union chief Maurizio Landini said the populist governing coalition in Rome “is promoting the wrong policies, and is not fighting the inequalities.”

Salvini’s right-wing League party entered into government with the populist Five Star Movement in 2018.

Since then, Italy has repeatedly refused to allow humanitarian ships that save migrants in the Mediterranean Sea to dock at its ports.

Fourth edition of living together in Togo

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

An article from Elite d’Afrique

The Association for the Culture of Peace and Sustainable Development, “The Pacific”, organized on Saturday, March 2nd in Lomé, the 4th edition of the “Pacific Forum” which aims to “raise awareness among Togolese religious communities on the theme of living together “.

This edition has the theme “Living together in a plural community: complementarities and responsibilities”. It allowed the association to raise consciousness of the participants, including ambassadors Islamologists, academics, Muslim and Christian faithful on the themes of solidarity, cohesion, fraternity that are important elements in the building of a nation.

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(Click here for the original French version of this article)

Question related to this article:
 
How can different faiths work together for understanding and harmony?

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The work took place in two panels namely “the contribution of foreign communities to the development of the host country” developed by the ambassadors of Niger and Senegal in Togo, Mrs. Sidibé Fadjimata Maman and Ms. Binéta Samba Ba respectively and “Hosts and foreigners : responsibilities in Islam” developed by the vice president of the Muslim Union of Togo (UMT), El Hadj, Sanni Karimou, Mr. Tchagbélé Ahasse, assistant professor at Kara University and by Mr. Diouf Alioune, lslamologue, communicator and historian.

“The organization of the fora aims to create a climate of harmony between the foreign communities living in Togo and the Togolese. This explains the holding of this high-level meeting, which brings together ambassadors, Islamists and academics around the themes of living together and mutual acceptance between communities, customs and religions,” said the president of the association, EI Hadj Moitapari Kouko.

The president of the association “The Pacific” recalled that last year his association organized a forum inside the country (Tchamba) and that he thinks to repeat this experience. The fora are organized in the interior of the country in order to bring the populations of these cities to accept each other, to love each other, to live together in solidarity and peace, he said.

Founded in 2015, “The Pacific” publishes a magazine focused on understanding the values ​​and main principles of the Muslim religion. It raises awareness about the coexistence of beliefs and religions as well as customs and populations.
 

Mohamed Sahnoun, 1931-2018: Advisor for Culture of Peace

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An obituary from Initiatives of Change International

September 24, 2018. It is with immense sadness that we announce that Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, former President of Initiatives of Change International, died on 20 September 2018.
Mohamed Sahnoun was chosen by two UN Secretary-Generals as their Special Representative in some of Africa’s most intractable conflicts. They knew him as a man with a remarkable ability to persuade warring factions to meet and talk.


Photo from Early History of the Culture of Peace

FThis was partly a product of his wide experience as a diplomat. He had been Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity and of the Arab League. He had served as Algeria’s Ambassador to Germany, France, the USA and Morocco.

But even more, it was a product of his approach to life. As a young man, during Algeria’s struggle for independence from France, he had been arrested by the French authorities and severely tortured. Yet as a diplomat he established warm relations with French leaders. As he said later, ‘My passion is to save endangered populations from the extreme insecurity of war, famine, drought and disaster,’ and he sought to enlist all who could help in that task.

His approach did much to resolve the tensions arising from the process of decolonisation across the African continent. His help was sought in situations large and small. His most satisfying task, he said, was mediating the transition of South-West Africa into the new country of Namibia. But he also dealt with innumerable places where towns and villages, divided by colonial straight-line borders, had to be adjusted. Sahnoun was often the person who mediated a solution.

UN Secretary-General Boutros Ghali chose him as his Special Representative to Somalia in 1993, when the country had erupted into severe conflict. Sahnoun reached out to all sides, and a basis for resolving the conflict was emerging. Then Boutros Ghali told him that the USA intended to intervene militarily. Sahnoun protested vehemently and, when told that the decision had been made, resigned. The US intervention was a disaster.

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Questions for this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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Sahnoun was always searching for more effective ways to bring peace. He supported the UNDP initiatives for ‘human security’, which focused on meeting the basic needs of citizens and thereby overcoming insecurity. He advised UNESCO on its Culture of Peace programme and advised Kofi Annan on environmental and development issues. He was a member of the Brundtland Commission.

He served as co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which developed the concept of Responsibility to Protect. ‘Mohamed had an extraordinary capacity to bring people together and bind wounds,’ wrote his co-chair, former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans. ‘He played an indispensable role in searching out the common ground between North and South which made possible the birth of Responsibility to Protect. We will particularly remember his delightful capacity to defuse tensions, usually with African parables involving lions, monkeys, crocodiles, scorpions or all of the above.’

In 2008, together with Cornelio Sommaruga, former President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, he launched the Caux Forum for Human Security. As he said in an interview with the Huffington Post, ‘The idea came from my sense of the deep insecurity in today’s world. Insecurity is born of fear. We must look to the root causes of that fear, and address it with far more energy and cohesion.’

He chose the IofC centre in Switzerland, Caux, as the venue because ‘it is a place where interreligious dialogue is deeply established. I had heard about Caux and Moral Re-Armament (the previous name of Initiatives of Change) from friends over many years. Caux was a safe place where people could build trust in one another.’

In Sahnoun’s view, achieving human security depended on progress in five areas, which he defined as just governance, inclusive economics, intercultural dialogue, environmental sustainability and healing historical wounds. ‘So often the understanding of security has focused purely on physical security,’ he said. ‘But human security is about the very fundamentals of our existence. I place special emphasis on healing wounded memories. In Algeria, Northern Ireland, the Balkans and other places of long pain and violence, the feelings run so deep that a special effort is called for.’

The Caux Forum brought together several hundred people each year, who explored these five concerns jointly. Many initiatives have emerged. In Eastern Europe there is a new emphasis on uncovering and healing the wounds resulting from war and authoritarian rule. And Caux is now doing much to bring the importance of land restoration to international attention.

Sahnoun served as President of Initiatives of Change International for two years [2007-2008], and his insights have helped shape Initiatives of Change programmes throughout the world.

Watch Mohamed Sahnoun’s opening speech  of the 3rd Caux Forum for Human Security in 2010 and an  interview  with him in 2011.