Tag Archives: global

Building infrastructures for peace

. . DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION . .

An article by Saul Arbess and David Wick for the Ashland Tidings

Much in the way that we have a military, energy and financial infrastructure, we also need an infrastructure for peace, a critical oversight in virtually all governments in the world.

In nearly every state, military infrastructure exists, often the most heavily financed, resourced and comprehensive infrastructure of government. They are in a high level of readiness for both defense and potential aggression against other states or responding to internal conflict, typically by suppression, thus favoring war and a military view of security — that is, an armed, unstable peace.

The military approach relies on threat rather than the creation of an enduring culture of peace, based upon our common security as citizens of planet Earth and the human right to peace and security of the person and community.

A good definition of infrastructure for peace comes from the United Nations Development Program: “An infrastructure for peace is a network of interdependent systems, resources, values and skills held by government, civil society and community institutions that promote dialogue and consultation; prevent conflict and enable peaceful mediation when violence occurs in a society.”

One could see infrastructure for peace as a parallel structure to the generally highly developed and readily mobilized military infrastructure with its national, regional and local organization, except that an infrastructure for peace is not hierarchical, but most effective when organized from the bottom up — that is, intervention should occur at the level where conflict is manifest and utilize traditional peace-building methods with trusted leadership at each level, not necessarily politicians.

A principal strength of infrastructure for peace is that it develops a permanent peace-building structure on the ground at all levels, rather than an ad hoc system of responding to conflict as it arises and then disbanding until the next conflict event occurs. An infrastructure for peace would allow for early warning and intervention in potential conflict scenarios and timely responses when violent conflict has emerged.

At the local level, the Ashland Peace Commission can be seen in this light. At the state level, there is the Democratic Party of California’s resolution calling for the state to create a department of peace. At the national level, there is the U.S. Institute of Peace that unfortunately only has the powers of persuasion, and the current bill for a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding.

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Question related to this article:

How can we develop the institutional framework for a culture of peace?

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Canada has created the position of Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security with both domestic and international responsibilities, supporting the role of women in all aspects of peace work.

In every case and at every level, the goal is to transform conflict by peaceful means, with violence not seen as an option. This means that all parties to a conflict are represented — both those directly involved and external interests as well, and are adequately resourced to present and support their interests in the absence of coercion.

Restorative Justice is an excellent model for this approach, active in many countries, including the U.S.

To build an infrastructure for peace nationally, there is the movement for departments or ministries of peace promoted by the Global Alliance for Ministries and Infrastructures for Peace. Currently the Solomon Islands (2005), Nepal (2007), Costa Rica (2009), the Autonomous Region of Bougainville – Papua New Guinea (unknown date) and, most recently, Ethiopia (2018) have created such infrastructures for peace.

Afghanistan is moving in this direction. In Africa, following electoral violence, both Ghana and Kenya have formed peace-building programs without a formal department as such.

Here are some guidelines for the establishment of infrastructures for peace:

1. It works best when there is a comprehensive strategy in place involving the government and all stakeholders at the national, regional and local level.

2. Each level in the structure needs to have some autonomy so that responses to conflict can be made rapidly at the appropriate level. Local peace committees can often function where government cannot or may be regarded with suspicion. Local peace committees have been effective in defusing electoral violence by creating a dialogue between opposing sides and insuring free and fair elections, mediation and reconciliation between parties.

3. Local peace committees are encouraged to utilize traditional and culturally appropriate decision-making structures, where legitimacy exists among the parties to conflict and not necessarily rely on modern state ideas of formal organization.

Saul Arbess is co-founder of the Global Alliance for Ministries and Infrastructures for Peace and the Canadian Peace Initiative. Arbess will be one of the speakers at the Ashland Global Peace Conference Sept. 21. He will be presenting a talk on infrastructures for peace. Conference information can be found at ashlandglobalpeaceconference.com. David Wick is executive director of the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission.

New Pax Christi leaders believe nonviolence education can change world

. . . EDUCATION FOR PEACE . . .

An article by Dennis Sadowski from Crux: Taking the Catholic pulse

Pax Christi International has two new co-presidents and while they hail from different continents, they share the view that rampant violence is posing ever-growing danger to the world.

Loreto Sister Teresia Wamuyu Wachira of Nairobi, Kenya, and Bishop Marc Stenger of Troyes, France open their three-year term hoping that the organization can boost training in nonviolence, especially among young people. They see such training as necessary so that eventually dialogue and communication become the prime options to resolve differences rather than the use of hateful words, physical attacks and even warfare.


Bishop Marc Stenger of Troyes, France, and Loreto Sister Teresia Wamuyu Wachira of Nairobi, Kenya, were elected co-presidents of Pax Christi International during the organization’s annual general meeting June 26-27 in Brussels. (Credit: CNS photo/Christi International.)

“Nonviolence is very, very important,” Wachira told Catholic News Servicefrom Kenya. “We have to try. It may take a long time and we may be going against the grain, but I believe we must move in the right direction.”

Stenger wrote in an email that the organization “can open avenues and provide guidance for promoting sustainable peace through nonviolent strategies.”

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Question for this article:

Can peace be guaranteed through nonviolent means?

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“It can do this,” he explained, “in connection with the infrastructure available to the Church at all levels – universities, seminaries, dioceses, etc. – stressing the social teaching of the Church, always to be read in the light of the Gospel.”

While starting their term during Pax Christi International’s annual general meeting June 26-27 in Brussels, the co-presidents had yet to formally meet face-to-face. Wachira was unable to attend because of visa issues. But both said they have talked via online video conferencing and were eager to move forward on the organization’s priorities addressing nonviolent alternatives.

Both peace leaders have promoted nonviolence in their ministry roles. Wachira has been a teacher and principal in Loreto-run schools in the East African nation, concentrating on training young women for peacemaking and reconciliation work.

She also advises her congregation’s office at the United Nations in New York on the role of peacemaking in the world’s trouble spots.

Stenger for years has written on nonviolence and the importance of building a culture of peace in local communities. His involvement with the Catholic peace organization dates to 1999, when the French bishops’ conference proposed he become president of that country’s Pax Christi body.

The bishop also has addressed the precarious situation of Christians in Iraq, and after a 2002 visit to Colombia, which then was in the midst of a long-running civil war, he called on all parties to respect human rights in order to achieve peace.

In his email, the bishop expressed concern that the world’s nuclear powers are seeking to expand their nuclear weapon arsenals after decades of reductions. Plus, he said, the widening distribution of conventional arms is destabilizing societies and increasing injustice in many nations, causing people to flee for safer lands.
Stenger has been a leading voice in the French Church on the role of people of faith stepping up to protect the environment. He has repeatedly called for strong global action to address climate change.

Historic and Cultural Interactions Between Islam and Judaism, Muslims and Jews

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY

An article by Bahar Bastani, M.D. – Saint Louis University, School of Medicine from Persian Heritage-part one and part two

There is a public perception that the Muslims and the Jews have an eternal animosity and have been in conflict through out their histories. However, Islam recognizes Judaism and Christianity as legitimate monotheistic faiths, and the Jews and the Christians as People of the Book who have received divine guidance. Moreover, in contrast to the Christians, Muslims did not consider the Jews as killers of God or God’s son. Thus, there was no inherent theological conflict between the Muslims and the Jews. The early conflicts between the Muslims and the Jews in Medina were political in nature, between the new rising power of the Islamic community (Ummah) and the older established power centers by the Jewish tribes. During the Golden Age of Islamic Civilization, 9th-12th centuries CE, both the Muslim and the Jewish civilizations flourished in the Islamic centers of higher learning in Baghdad and al-Andalusia-Spain, and the Muslim territories was safe heaven for the Jewry of the world. Also, when Spain fell under the Spanish Catholic rule in 1492 and the Jews where being persecuted, it was the Ottoman Empire that send ships to rescue the Jews from Spain into the Muslim territories. The current conflicts between some of the Muslim countries and Israel is also of political and not ideological in nature.

Part one

Judaism and Islam are both true monotheistic Abrahamic religions that originated in the Middle East. The prophet Moses founded Judaism among the ancient Hebrews over 3,500 years ago (1500BCE = Before Common Era = Before Christ). The prophet Moses was a descendent of the prophet Abraham through his wife Sarah, their son Isaac, and their grandson Jacob (also known as Israel). The Torah (the Hebrew Bible = the Christian Old Testament = the first five books of the Bible [Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy]) is the foundational text of Judaism that encompasses the religion, philosophy and culture of the Jewish people. It is believed by the Jews that God gave the Tanakh (the written Torah [the Five Books of Moses], Nevi’im [“Prophets”], and Ketuvim [“Writings”]) to the prophet Moses. The books of the Tanakh were passed on generations accompanied by the oral Torah (the Talmud: Mishnah & Gemara) that contains compiled rabbinic opinions and teachings from before the Common Era (BCE = BC) to the fifth century Common Era (CE = AD = After Death of Christ) on Jewish law & ethics, customs, history and philosophy.

The prophet Mohammad (570-632CE or AD) founded Islam in the 7th century (610CE) (1,400 years ago). The prophet Mohammad was a descendant of the prophet Abraham through Abraham’s second wife Hagar, and Abraham’s first-born son by Hagar, Ishmael. The primary sacred scripture of Islam is the Quran, which is considered by Muslims as the verbatim word of God. Other important Islamic sources are the teachings and normative example of the prophet Mohammad, which is called the Sunnah, composed of accounts called the Hadith. The books of Hadith that are considered most authentic in the Sunni Sect of Islam are called the Sihah Sittah (the six authentic books): Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawood, Jamia Tirmizi, Sunan Nasai, Sunan Ibn Majah. The books of Hadith that are considered most authentic in the Shia Sect of Islam are called al-Kutub al-Arbaa’h (the four books): Kitab al-Kafi, Man la yahduruhu al-Fagih, Tahdhib al-Ahkam, and al-Istibsar.

In a short interval of 622 to 732CE (within a 110 years) Islam entered into the international stage, and became an important player in vast territories stretching from Iran to Spain, Morocco, northern Syria, and the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, Muslims from the beginning of their history (migration from Mecca to Medina, 622CE) have been in close contact with people of the Jewish and Christian faith.
There are many shared aspects between Islam and Judaism: both are strictly monotheistic and non-compromising in a transcendent, eternal and incorporeal God who is just and merciful, who guides mankind through prophets, who prescribes laws of conduct for all daily matters from birth to death, and whom can be reached by way of prayer that should be directed to God and not to others with no need for intermediaries or clergy; a God who is aware of the thoughts and deeds of man, and who rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked justly. Both faiths believe that there is life after death, and both are messianic, believing in the coming of a savior at the end of days. Both faiths are very action-oriented, with religious acts and rituals mandated by God that should be performed routinely and correctly. Christianity, on the other hand, is more about faith and feeling in the heart. Both faiths (Judaism & Islam) describe in detail how a righteous life should be conducted on a daily basis from the time of birth to one’s death, in accordance with God’s mandates. While Jesus himself was born into a Jewish household and Jewish tradition and followed these rules, the Christians led by Saint Paul abandoned these rules claiming that the coming of Jesus meant loss of validity of the Jewish laws. The very elaborate and intricate system of laws and jurisprudence is called “Halakha” in Judaism and “Sharia” in Islam. Both are paths for a believer to reaffirm his/her covenant with the creator. For both faiths, the letter of the law is as important as its spirit. Both legal systems go into detail of how one should conduct his/her daily living matters at a personal and community level, and in relation to God. There are permissible (Kosher or Halal) and impermissible foods, specific ways to sacrifice animals for human consumption, prescribed daily prayers and rules on washing before prayers, rules about place of prayer, prescribed fasting at specific times, rules on spousal relationship, laws on inheritance, marriage, divorce, child custody, adultery, financial conflicts, stealing, treason, rituals after birth, circumcision of male offspring, and rituals at burial of the dead. 

Scholars of both faiths spend tremendous time extracting these legal codes from the sacred text (the Torah and the Quran) and the oral commentaries (the Talmud and the Hadith books), and pass judicial treatises. In both faiths, learning about religious and divine laws is a form of prayer and worship, and a fulltime occupation for religious scholars and leaders (rabbis and ulema). These religious scholars act as interpreters of the law for their communities in religious matters and do not have any liturgical role, as in the case of Christian priests, since in both Judaism and Islam, the believers directly pray to God, with no need for intermediaries. They also served as judges and arbitrators in community conflicts. In both faiths there has been emphasis on memorization of the sacred text in early childhood. Over time, the synagogues and the mosques that used to serve as the community centers, courts of law and centers of higher education, became devoted exclusively to the study of religious legal matters to an extreme extend, and focused more on the past commentaries and oral traditions than their original sacred texts, i.e. the Torah and the Quran. 

Islam considers the Christians and the Jews as legitimate communities of believers in God. They are referred to in the Quran and the Hadith as “people of the Book” (Ahl al-Kitab), who have received divine guidance through two highly revered prophets, i.e., the prophet Moses and the prophet Jesus. The prophet Moses is mentioned 136 times and the Children of Israel (Banu Israel = children of Jacob) 43 times in the Quran. There are five major chapters in the Quran that are devoted significantly to the story of the prophet Moses and Banu Israel, namely the second chapter (Al-Baqara – The Cow), chapter 20 (Ta-Ha), chapter 26 (Ash-Shu’ara – The Poets), chapter 27 (An-Naml – The Ants), and chapter 28 (Al-Qasas – The Stories). And, over 16 verses in the Quran emphasize that the Quran has come to affirm the truth in the Bible and the Torah, and not to reject them, emphasizing their role in human guidance (Quran 5:46, 66, 68).1

The early interactions between Muslims and Jews were very positive. Mohammad considered them to be his natural allies and admired them as true monotheists. The earliest verses of the Quran were very sympathetic to the Jews. Unlike the Christians, Muslims did not view the Jews as deicides (killers of “God”) (the Quran claims that the Jews did not kill Jesus; Quran 4:157)2 and did not attribute evil to the Jews. The Quran did not present itself as the fulfillment of the Hebrew bible, but rather as a restoration of its original message. The Quran praises the prophet Moses, depicts Israelites as the recipients of divine favors, and in many of its verses glorifies the Hebrew prophets (Quran 6:85),3 and mentions God’s favors to the Children of Israel that made them excel among the nations of their time (Quran 2:47, 122).4

On the 11th year of Mohammad’s prophet hood (622CE), because of the heightened persecutions against the Muslims and an attempt to assassinate the prophet Mohammad in Mecca, and after repeated invitations from people of Yathrib (later named Medina), the prophet Mohammad, along with some 200 immigrants from Mecca (called the “Muhajerun”) fled to Yathrib (Medina). The event hallmarks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, al-Hijra. This was at the invitation of the people of Medina, who were comprised of 2 prominent rival Arab tribes (Aus & Khazraj), which had been in a seemingly never-ending perpetual fight for centuries. The prophet Mohammad was appointed as the governor, judge and arbitrator of this city. In Medina, along with the Muslim immigrants from Mecca (the “Muhajerun” = the emigrants) were the newly converts of Medina (the “Ansar” = the helpers), some remaining idol worshipers, some Christians, and 3 powerful Jewish tribes. In the very beginning, the prophet Mohammad drew a “social contract” known as the “Constitution of Medina” or “Medina Charter”, a kind of alliance or federation among the prevailing communities in Medina. It upheld a peaceful coexistence between the Muslims, Christians, Jews and other city dwellers in a new, inclusive concept of Umma (community of the citizens), granting them freedom of religious thought and practices.

It was a formal agreement guaranteeing interfaith, multicultural coexistence, including articles emphasizing strategic cooperation in the defense of the city, and prohibiting any alliance with the outside enemies. It also declared that disputes would be referred to the prophet Mohammad for arbitration. It was acknowledged in the contract “the Jews will profess their religion, and the Muslims theirs,” or “to the Jews, their own expenses, and to the Muslims, theirs. They shall help one another in the event of any attack on the people covered by this document. There shall be sincere friendship and exchange of goods, good counsel, fair conduct and no act of treason between them.”

The prophet Mohammad expected the Jews of Medina to be his natural allies and accept his prophet hood, since his message was in alliance with their long-standing tradition of monotheism, confirming the truth that had been revealed to them from God in the Torah. However, as the conversion of the perpetually fighting pagan tribes of Medina to Islam united them in a Muslim Umma (community of the faithful) and the Muslims gained more power, tribal politics led the Jewish tribes of Medina to worry about this newly rising power. They refused to accept Mohammad’s prophet hood, and in the subsequent years that wars happened between the Meccan pagans (Quraysh tribes) and the Muslims of Medina the Jewish tribes secretly sided with the offending pagans. Moreover, on religious grounds the Jews were skeptical of a non-Hebrew prophet. While the prophet Mohammad had no prejudice against the Jews and considered his message as substantially the same as theirs, this initially peaceful coexistence soon ended. Around 2 years after Hijra (immigration of Muslims to Medina) the direction of prayer (qibla) of Muslims changed from Jerusalem to Mecca (624CE = 2AH), further emphasizing the identity of the new faith (Islam) as distinct from Judaism. 

The 3 powerful Jewish tribes in Medina were the Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu Nadir, and the Banu Qurayza. The Banu Qaynuqa were expelled from Medina after the Battle of Badr (624CE; 2AH), wherein the first armed confrontation Muslims decisively defeated the pagan forces of Mecca (Quraysh tribe). According to Ibn Ishaq (85-151AH),5 shortly after this victory, a Muslim woman was disrespected by a Jewish merchant in the Jewish quarter of goldsmiths, by stripping off her dress and head-cover. A Muslim man who came upon the resulting commotion killed the Jewish merchant. A Jewish mob of the Qaynuqa tribe killed the Muslim man in retaliation. This led to a great turmoil in the city. The prophet Mohammad gathered the Jews of the Banu Qaynuqa in the bazaar, warning them to stop escalating hostilities or they would face the same fate of the Meccan pagans in the Battle of Badr. He also asked the Jews to accept him as a prophet of God. The prophet Mohammad was mocked over his victory over the Meccan pagans, and the Battle of Badr was ridiculed and claimed as insignificant. He was further told that the Muslims would not dare to confront the Jews. The event led to a siege of the Qaynuqa Jewish fortresses and their expulsion from Medina.

Part two

The Banu Nadir tribe was expelled from Medina in 625 CE (3 AH) after an alleged attempt to assassinate the prophet Mohammad a few months after the Battle of Uhud. In that battle, an army of 3,000 men of Meccan pagans (Quraysh tribe) attacked a Muslim force in Medina (around 700 defending men), and despite early success in the battlefield, Muslims had very heavy losses.

The Banu Qurayza tribe was vanished after the Battle of Trench in 627 CE (5 AH), when a combined force of more than 10,000 men from the pagan Meccan Quraysh tribe and many of the Bedouin pagan tribes of the Arabian peninsula united forces under the Jewish leadership of Huyayy ibn Akhtab to conquer Medina and eradicate Muslims once and for all. After a month of an unsuccessful siege of Medina, behind a trench dug by the Muslims and adverse weather conditions, the pagans retreated with heavy losses back to Mecca. During the unsuccessful siege of Medina, the pagans secretly negotiated with the Jews of the Banu Qurayza to provide them with a safe passage to attack the city from behind. This was considered a violation of the peace treaty (the constitution of Medina). The prophet Mohammad ordered a siege of the Banu Qurayza fortresses. After their defeat, he asked them to appoint a judge of their choice to rule on the act of treason they had committed. The Banu Qurayza agreed to accept whatever verdict Sa’ad ibn Mua’dh (the leader of their former ally, the Aus tribe) would pass on them. Sa’ad, who himself was severely wounded in the Battle of Trench, invoked the Torah and declared treason as an unpardonable offense and sentenced all adult males be executed and the women and the children be taken as war captives (Quran33:26-27). However, some historians have disputed that the Banu Qurayza men were killed on quite such a large scale. It has been argued that ibn Ishaq gathered information from descendants of the Qurayza Jews, who embellished or manufactured the details of the incident.

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

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The negative and derogatory verses in the Quran against the Jews (Quran 2:65, 5:60, 7:166) appeared after these events and were directed toward the wrongdoers among the Jews who disobeyed the laws of God as revealed in the Torah, who broke the Sabbath, and took usury, which was strictly prohibited for them and for the Muslims, and who were not grateful for the goods bestowed on them by God, and had altered their holy scripture (Quran 3:63, 71; 4:46, 160-161; 5:41-44, 63-64, 82; 6:91). In the Quran’s style of timely narratives, the references to the Jews and other groups were only to certain populations, and pertained to a certain period of history, and were devoid of racial and religious profiling. The Jewish people in general, and Judaism were not the targets of these remarks, and the criticisms dealt mainly with the wrong doers among the Jews. At the same time, the Quran gives legitimacy to the Jews and the Christians where it says that those among them who truly believe in the God, the Day of Judgment, and do good in this life, should have no fear on the Day of Judgment (Quran 2:62 & 5:69),10 and praises the high virtues among some of the followers of the Book (Christians and Jews) (Quran 3:113-115),11 and praises those Jews who guide others in the way of the truth and act justly (Quran 7:159).

As the people of the Book, the Christians and the Jews in the territories governed by Muslims enjoyed more protection than the followers of other faiths, and were given a minority status of “dhimmi” with rights to own property, practice their religion, maintain their places of worship, and be judged by their own judges according to their own jurisprudence, engage in commerce and operate their own schools, in exchange for a special poll tax called “Jizya”. Also, they would not be drafted into the army at wartime and they would receive all the protections that Muslims enjoyed as citizens of those communities. Moreover, they were exempt from the regular tax (Zakat) that Muslims had to pay to the government on a yearly basis.

It was at the time of the second righteous (Rashidun) caliph after the Prophet Mohammad’s death, Umar ibn al-Khattab (641 CE, 19 AH), that the Holy Land of Hijaz (Mecca and Medina and their surroundings) became forbidden to the non-Muslims, and they were only allowed in the Red Sea port of Jidda (Jeddah). He also set aside the Christian ban on the Jews and allowed them into Jerusalem for worship. At the same time some restrictive conditions were codified known as “Pact of Umar” that gave the Jews and the Christians a second-class citizen status. However, despite the dhimmi status, the Jews were still better off under the Muslim rule than under the Byzantine Christian rule.

While the dhimmi status indicated a second-class citizenship, it did not prevent a good working relationship and even friendship between the Muslims and the Jews. As individuals, the Jews reached high positions under various Muslim rulers, rabbinical courts were recognized to judge the Jews in their disputes, and the Jewish leaders were recognized to represent the Jewish communities.

After Ali ibn Abutaleb, the fourth righteous caliph after the Prophet Mohammad’s death, was assassinated in 661 CE (40 AH), Muawiya who was the Muslim ruler of Syria took over the entire Muslim empire and established the Umayyad dynasty. The Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750 CE in a bloody revolt, notably by the support from the “mawali” (converted Iranians) lead by an Iranian general Abu Muslim Khorasani. The sole survivor of the Umayyad royal family, Prince Abd al-Rahman I fled to Spain that had been under Umayyad rule since 711 CE, and established a new dynasty at Cordoba, Spain. His descendent, Abd al-Rahman III proclaimed the caliphate of Cordoba in 929 CE independent from the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad.

During the Abbasid caliphate in the Muslim Middle East, there was a gradual revival of the Persian (Iranian) culture and influence, and the old Arab aristocracy was partially replaced by a Muslim Iranian administration. The Iranians had an ancient civilization that had extensive interactions with the civilizations of India and China. The Iranian converts introduced advanced technologies in agriculture and irrigation, medicine, mathematics and astronomy, as well as a universal philosophy, and a tradition of efficient state administration. During the Abbasid dynasty, Baghdad was the capital city and seat of power in the Muslim world. It became a center for higher learning, arts and sciences, attracting people of knowledge, philosophers, architects, musicians, poets and intellectuals from all around the world. The books of past scientists and philosophers were actively translated from the Greek, Persian, Indian, and Chinese languages into Arabic, and soon the Arabic language became the means of conveying knowledge and new discoveries to the world, much as the English language is today. Muslim physicians and scientists of Persia (Iran) wrote the prefaces in Arabic for more widespread public use in the Islamic world.

The Islamic civilization flourished most in the medieval period 900 – ۱۲۰۰ CE in both Baghdad and Cordoba-Spain, as did the Jewish civilization in the Muslim territories. As the Arabic language became the state and intellectual language of the Middle East, North Africa and Muslim Spain, the Jews living in these territories adopted Arabic as a means of communication, and for several centuries most of the Jewish religious and secular intellectual production was in the Arabic written in Hebrew letters. Following the pioneering works of Rabbi Saadya Gaon in Iraq, some of the greatest Jewish classics by ibn Pakudah, Maimonides and Halevi were written in the Arabic language, which had become a legitimate tool of creation of scientific and philosophical discoveries and thoughts.

The region in Spain ruled by the Muslims, called al-Andalusia, became a center for intellectuals, poets, philosophers, and scientists of the time. The adoption of the Arabic language enabled the educated Jews to actively participate in the dominant culture, and to have access to all recent Muslim intellectual achievements in science and philosophy, as well as to the Greek intellectual heritage, which had been best preserved by the Muslim scholars. The Jews became active participants in a variety of professions, such as medicine, commerce, finance, and agriculture. The meticulous regard, which Muslim-linguists had for the Arabic grammar and style influenced Jewish linguists to study Hebrew and led to a renaissance in the Jewish poetry in Hebrew that paralleled the Arabic in meter and styles. During this period some of the greatest intellectual works in philosophy, law, grammar, and natural sciences appeared in both the Jewish and Muslim worlds. Adoption of the Arabic language and a Judeo-Arabic culture greatly facilitated assimilation of the Jews in Muslim countries, and their active participation in international trade in caravans linking east and west of the vast Muslim territories. This led to the emergence of a class of wealthy Jews in the courts of Muslim rulers who served as the bankers and financiers.

When Muslims conquered south of Spain in 711 CE, they were generally welcomed and assisted by the local Jews, and once conquered, the defense of Cordoba was left in the hands of the Jews under Muslim rule. By the time Umayyad rule was establish by Abd al-Rahman I in 755 CE, waves of Jewish immigrants escaped a century of persecution under the Christian rule in Europe, as well as the Jews from the Mediterranean region, and also from the Muslim territories from Morocco to Babylon joined the native Jewish communities there, and thus, a highly enriched-Sephardic Jewish culture was created by a mixture of these very diverse Jewish traditions from all over the world. The Jewish scholars from around the world were invited to Cordoba. During the reign of Abd al-Rahman III (912-961 CE) who proclaimed a Muslim Caliphate (independent from Baghdad) in Cordoba-Spain (929 CE), the Jews developed their own (independent of Baghdad) Jewish community, culture and Talmudic authority. Under the influence of the Muslim linguists and grammarians, a new generation of Hebrew linguists and grammarians emerged, who applied the same meticulousness that the Muslim linguists and scholars applied to the study of Arabic (the language of the Quran) to the study of Hebrew (the language of Torah). The Jewish poetry in Hebrew had a renaissance in style and meter in this period. Celebrated poets, such as Solomon ibn Gabriol, Yehuda, Halevi, Abraham and Moses ibn Ezra, as well as linguists, such as Dunash ben Labrat (innovator of Hebrew metric poetry), and Menahem ben Saruq (compiler of the first Hebrew dictionary) were some of the prominent figures of this period. Hasdai ibn Shaprut, the Jewish counselor in customs and foreign trade to Abd al-Rahman III, himself a poet and a man of letters, encouraged and supported Sephardic Jewish works in linguistics, religion, nature, politics and music.

In the fertile multicultural environment of al-Andulus, the Jewish and Muslim scholars made significant strides in astronomy, astrology, optics, geometry, medicine, philosophy, and literary works. They developed astrolabes to calculate latitudes and improved astronomical tables and instruments for navigation. Abraham ibn Ezra, a Jewish poet and scholar, wrote three books on arithmetic and number theory. Many books of science and philosophy were translated from the Greek into Arabic, Hebrew and Latin, and had a great influence on the intellectual movement and renaissance later in the rest of Europe.

The good fortune of the Jews in the Muslim Spain (al-Andalusia) that started in 711 peaked by mid 12th century when Jewish communities had flourished throughout Spain’s Islamic centers of power, Granada, Cordoba, Merida, Lucena, Saragossa, and Seville. The culture of Sephardic Judaism was shaped in this unique multicultural, diverse society where the Muslims, the Christians and the Jews lived together, interacted freely and created a culture full of vitality.

The culturally fertile and open society of al-Andalus ended in mid 12th century with the coming of Almohads (al-Muwahhidun = “the monotheists”, a Moroccan Berber Muslim movement founded in the 12th century) from north of Africa (Morocco) to help defend the Muslim Spain against the Spanish Christians who were pushing the Muslims southward. The whole of the Islamic Spain was under the rule of Almohads by 1172 CE. Their dominance continued till 1212 CE, after which they gradually lost territories to an alliance of Christian forces from north of Spain, so that the great Moorish cities of Cordova and Seville had fallen to the Christian forces by 1236 CE and 1248 CE, respectively. Jews were severely restricted under the Almohads’ reign and many chose to move northward to the newly conquered Christian lands, where they were temporarily treated better. Among those were Maimonides (aka Moses ben Maimon, Musa bin Maymun, Rambam) and his family, a great medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher, legalist and physician, who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. They settled in Fez in Morocco, and later on in Fustat, Egypt around 1168 CE. While in Cairo, he composed his acclaimed 14-volume commentary on the Mishna Torah that still carries significant canonical authority as a codification of Talmudic law. He worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt. He was influenced by the earlier Muslim Scholars and philosophers such as Al-Farabi (Alpharabius, 872-950) and Avicenna (ibn Sina, 980–۱۰۳۷), and his contemporary Averroes (ibn Rushd, 1126-1198), and he in his turn became recognized as a prominent philosopher and polymath in both the Jewish and Islamic worlds. Gaining widespread recognition, he was appointed as court physician to Sultan Saladin and the Egypt royal family. Maimonides died in 1204 in Fustat, Egypt.

By the thirteenth century, the multicultural, humanistic Muslim societies gradually gave way to more rigid, orthodox and less tolerant societies, and the Islamic world declined in its intellectual productivity and frontiering, as did the Jewish communities within these territories. The Jewish cultural and intellectual creativity gradually shifted toward the Jewish communities in Europe. However, the Jews who stayed in the Muslim territories still had some protections, albeit as second-class citizens, in accordance with the pact of Umar.

The fate of the Jews in Spain turned around once again in 1492 CE when the Spanish Catholic royal couple Isabel I and Ferdinand II issued an edict that all the remaining Jews (hundreds of thousands) who had lived in Spain for generations should either convert to Christianity or be expelled from Spain. The Turkish Ottoman Sultan Bayazid II sent ships to Spain and rescued the Jews who were not only permitted, but were even encouraged to settle in the Ottoman territories. The Jews lived under relative calm under the Muslim Ottoman rulers. The relatively tolerant atmosphere of the Ottoman Empire encouraged large numbers of European Jews to migrate to Ottoman controlled territories. The newly arrived Jews contributed to the technological and scientific progress of the Ottoman Empire. One of their great contributions was development of the printing press in Turkey in 1493 CE, and within one year of their expulsion from Spain they established the first Hebrew press in Istanbul.

During the early Turkish conquest and expansion of the Muslim Ottoman Empire in the early 14th century, the Jews who were oppressed under the Christian Byzantine rule welcomed Muslims as their saviors. Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries the Jews who were expelled from many European lands, e.g., Hungary (1376 CE), France (1394 CE), Sicily (early 1400s), Bavaria (1470 CE), Spain (1492 CE), Italy (1537 CE), Bohemia (1542 CE), fled to and were welcomed in the Ottoman territories.

During the three centuries following their expulsion, the Jews in the Turkish Muslim Ottoman Empire ascended to high positions as court physicians (Hakim Yacoub, Moshe Hamon, Joseph Hamon, Gabriel Buenaventura, and Daniel Fonseca), and as foreign diplomats.

In the 19th century, with the decline of Turkish Ottoman power, and as a reaction to the growing European colonial powers, there was a rise in nationalistic fervor and religious radicalism that led to deterioration of the living conditions of the Jews in some Muslim countries.

Today, territorial and political disputes in the middle east have been increasingly characterized in religious terms, feeding the radicalized elements of all sides, to demonize “the others,” and have created the false notion that the Muslims and the Jews have been mortal enemies of each other throughout their histories, while, as shown in this communication, the rise and fall of civilization in both communities was interdependent upon one another and the Jews were historically better off in the Muslim lands than in the Christian lands.

(Thank you to Eshagh Shaoul for sending this article to CPNN)

Environmental damage is a war crime, scientists say

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article by Jordan Davidson from Ecowatch

Two dozen prominent scientists from around the world have asked the UN to make environmental damage in conflict zones a war crime. The scientists published their open letter in the journal Nature.


crustmania / CC BY 2.0

The letter, titled “Stop Military Conflicts from Trashing the Environment,” asks the United Nations’ International Law Commission to adopt a Fifth Geneva Convention when it meets later this month. The UN group is scheduled to hold a meeting with the aim of building on the 28 principles it has already drafted to protect the environment and lands sacred to indigenous people, according to The Guardian.

Damage to protected areas during a military skirmish should be considered a war crime on par with violations of human rights, the scientists say. If the UN adopts their suggestions, the principles would include measures to hold governments accountable for the damage done by their militaries, as well as legislation to curb the international arms trade.

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Question for this article:

How can we ensure that science contributes to peace and sustainable development?

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“We call on governments to incorporate explicit safeguards for biodiversity, and to use the commission’s recommendations to finally deliver a Fifth Geneva Convention to uphold environmental protection during such confrontations,” the letter reads.

Currently, the four existing Geneva Conventions and their three additional protocols are globally recognized standards enshrined into international law. It dictates humane treatment for wounded troops in the field, soldiers shipwrecked at sea, prisoners of war, and civilians during armed conflicts. Violating the treaties amounts to a war crime, as Common Dreams reported.

“Despite calls for a fifth convention two decades ago, military conflict continues to destroy megafauna, push species to extinction, and poison water resources,” the letter reads. “The uncontrolled circulation of arms exacerbates the situation, for instance by driving unsustainable hunting of wildlife.”

Sarah M. Durant of the Zoological Society of London and José C. Brito of the University of Porto in Portugal drafted the letter. The 22 other signatories, mostly from Africa and Europe, are affiliated with organizations and institutions in Egypt, France, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Libya, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and the United States.

“The brutal toll of war on the natural world is well documented, destroying the livelihoods of vulnerable communities and driving many species, already under intense pressure, towards extinction,” said Durant, as the The Guardian reported. “We hope governments around the world will enshrine these protections into international law. This would not only help safeguard threatened species, but would also support rural communities, both during and post-conflict, whose livelihoods are long-term casualties of environmental destruction.”

(Thank you to Leo Sandy for sending this article to CPNN.)

Officials Urge Disarmament ‘Stepping Stones’

.DISARMAMENT & SECURITY.

An article by Shervin Taheran for the Arms Control Association

Warning of a possible resumed nuclear arms race, senior officials from 16 nations urged nuclear-armed nations last month to advance their disarmament efforts as required by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The June 11 meeting of foreign ministers and other high-level officials was hosted by Sweden as part of an initiative announced by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström at the NPT preparatory committee meeting in May. (See ACT, June 2019.)


German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (left) and Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström speak at a June 11 meeting in Stockholm on nuclear disarmament. (Photo: Claudio Bresciani/AFP/Getty Images)

The gradual downward trend of the global nuclear arsenal from its peak in 1986, should not be reversed,” the officials proclaimed in a joint declaration. “A potential nuclear arms race—which would serve no one’s interest—must be avoided.”

The participants represented non-nuclear, nonaligned countries, including Argentina, Ethiopia, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland, and nations that receive the cover of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, including Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, and Spain.

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Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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Their statement emphasized the importance of reaffirming the role of the NPT as “the cornerstone of the global disarmament and nonproliferation regime” and stressed the necessity of increased progress on the disarmament pillar of the treaty.

Toward that end, the ministers declared that they will seek an outcome at the 2020 NPT Review Conference that will identify “stepping stones” for the implementation of the NPT disarmament obligations, which commit the treaty’s five nuclear-weapon states to “pursue negotiations in good faith” to end the nuclear arms race and to achieve nuclear disarmament.

The officials highlighted concrete measures that could be taken to advance disarmament, as previously presented in a Swedish working paper, including more transparent declaratory policies, measures to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in doctrines, strengthening negative security assurance, working on nuclear disarmament verification, and addressing the production of fissile material.

Sweden first submitted the working paper to the NPT preparatory committee meeting in April. The United States also has pursued an initiative ahead of the review conference, titled “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament”.

Citing the need to identify common ground on disarmament, Wallström told the May NPT meeting that “the NPT community cannot come empty-handed next year” for the review conference. The process laid out in the working paper could help to build trust and confidence and “unlock current diplomatic blockages,” she said.

Youth and Peacebuilding: Executive Summary

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

A report from Peace Direct

Almost four years since the historic adoption of the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution (SCR) 2250, most signatory Member States are still lagging in supporting youth-led initiatives and generating conducive environments for youth inclusion at the local level.

Despite most governments’ failure to implement this resolution and support youth-led peacebuilding initiatives, young peacebuilders around the world are charting creative and innovative ways to assert their voices, thus contributing to advancing youth inclusion in peacebuilding processes around the world. Drawing on a three-day online consultation organised by Peace Direct and United Network of Young (UNOY) Peacebuilders in April 2019 with local peacebuilders from across the world, this report shares key insights and policy recommendations to enhance youth inclusion in peacebuilding processes in light of young peacebuilders’ strengths and aspirations to transform their respective contexts.

This report forms part of Peace Direct’s Local Voices for Peace (LVP) Report series and seeks to amplify young peacebuilders’ voices and explore the different, innovative ways in which they are advancing youth inclusion in political and peacebuilding processes in their contexts. It underscores the challenges that young peacebuilders are experiencing in the implementation of SCR 2250.

Participants of the online consultation delineated the tensions that exist between their optimistic individual attitudes, behaviours, and aspirations underlying their peacebuilding efforts, and the attitudes and behaviours of policymakers toward youth-led peacebuilding initiatives. Thus, a central question that the report posits for policymakers, governments, peacebuilding organisations, research institutions, and young peacebuilders working to advance the Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) Agenda is: how can we effectively support and engage the growing number of youth peacebuilders around the world? How can we ensure greater support and identify a new approach to engage youth peacebuilders? To advance youth inclusion in peacebuilding processes, it is critical that policymakers and local stakeholders choose to perceive young peacebuilders and youth in general as allies for good rather than threats to contain.

Key insights

The three-day online consultation, convened by Peace Direct and UNOY, sought to explore the innovative ways in which local young peacebuilders are advancing youth inclusion in political and peacebuilding processes in their different contexts. Participants were invited to contribute to a series of online, text-based discussions for three days. Over 140 participants from 56 countries took part. The most noteworthy insights and recommendations from the online consultation are summarised below:

* Participants of the online consultation juxtaposed the optimistic individual attitudes and behaviours of many young people driving peacebuilding efforts with the failure of policy makers to recognise and support the positive potential of youth in peacebuilding processes as agents of conflict transformation. • Most governments have thus far failed to adequately implement SCR 2250 at the local level. Youth peacebuilders face combined challenges of shrinking civic engagement spaces, limited access to individual economic opportunities or organisational funding, and a lack of transparency from governments on the implementation of the YPS Agenda. • It is important that policymakers open political spaces for youth to fully participate in both the formulation of decision-making structures and actual decision-making processes. Open dialogue is key to building trust between youth peacebuilders and policymakers.

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Question related to this article.

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

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* Despite exclusion from political and policy processes, most young people do not turn to violence as a solution for political change. However, such exclusion can exacerbate the risk of violence and radicalisation in certain contexts. • Existing gender norms can affect which youth groups can access peacebuilding processes. • To advance the inclusion of youth, and other marginalised groups such as women, in peacebuilding processes, it is critical to also recognise and account for the destructive roles these constituencies have played in conflicts — allowing appropriate transitional and restorative justice mechanisms to address past abuses. This is especially crucial in countries with histories of unaddressed past grievances in which youth were perpetrators of violence

Recommendations

Governments, multilateral actors and civil society groups should: • Recognise the force of youth peacebuilders as agents of conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Governments must urgently implement SCR 2250 and foster meaningful youth participation in peacebuilding processes through effective policies and programmes. This involves engaging youth constituencies in defining country strategies and peacebuilding processes that are reflective of their needs and aspirations.

* Support greater funding for youth groups and youth-led initiatives at local levels, for example through supporting youth peacebuilder networks and fostering local youth leadership. This should include flexible funding structures needed to build organisational sustainability at local levels.

* Improve accountability and transparency on action on YPS, such as through improved official and shadow reporting on implementation on the five pillars of SCR 2250 – namely participation, protection, prevention, partnerships, and disengagement and reintegration – as well as on the specific stipulations of SCR 2419 on youth participation in the negotiation and implementation of peace agreements.

* Undertake intersectional analyses to understand and address factors impeding the full recognition of the contributions of young women and other marginalised youth groups. It is important to promote the inclusion of girls and women in peacebuilding processes by challenging negative gender norms.

* Adapt to new ways of participation and new youth leadership models. This paradigm shift involves an awareness of youth-friendly mechanisms and tools such as youth MP quotas, youth advisory councils, dedicated youth programmes, and social media to stimulate their full contribution in social and political matters.

* Continue to build the evidence around young people’s contributions to peacebuilding in diverse conflict contexts.

* Support the establishment of intergenerational councils to discuss challenges related to youth inclusion in peacebuilding. These councils would provide permanent platforms for intergenerational participation in the policymaking process and should be composed of elders, political leaders, policymakers, and youth representatives from all backgrounds—especially those most affected by conflict.

To read the report in full, visit https://www.peacedirect.org/publications/youth-and-peacebuilding/.

SADC and United Nations honor Nelson Mandela

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An article in the Jornal de Angola (translation by CPNN)

In recognition of Nelson Mandela’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom of peoples, the executive secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Stergomena L. Tax rendered homage to Nelson Mandela “Madiba” for his realization of peace, freedom and social justice in South Africa and in the consolidation of democracy on the continent and in the world.


Mandela was remembered yesterday, Photography: DR

Stargomena Tax said that Nelson Mandela represents the symbol of democracy and freedom not only for the people of South Africa, but also the southern region of the continent and the world. “After 10 years, the world continues to reaffirm its commitment to honor and honor the man who has done everything for the liberation of his people and for peace in the world,” the statement said.

July 18 marks the date of Nelson Mandela’s birth and was established as the Day of the South African leader in December 2009 by the United Nations General Assembly.

It is celebrated every year around the world as Mandela Day.

The SADC executive secretary reaffirmed in the communiqué the commitment of Africans to honor Mandela’s achievements as a legacy for the preservation of peace, the consolidation of democracy and the sustainable development of member countries.

For his achievements, Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Under the leadership of Mandela the South African Government focused on the dismantling of apartheid, combating institutionalized racism, poverty, inequality and promoting racial reconciliation.

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(Click here for the original article in Portuguese.)

Questions related to this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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Homage in New York

“With hate speech casting a growing shadow around the world, Nelson Mandela’s calls for social cohesion and an end to racism are particularly relevant today,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said yesterday. “Nelson Mandela was such an extraordinary global defender of dignity and equality that anyone in the public service should emulate,” Guterres said.

As “one of the most emblematic and inspiring leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela was an example of courage, compassion and commitment to freedom, peace and social justice.”

“He lived by these principles and was prepared to sacrifice his freedom and even life for them,” Guterres said. “As we work collectively for peace, stability, sustainable development, and human rights for all, it would be well to remember the example given to us by Nelson Mandela. Our best tribute is actions,” he added.

The statement recognized the period from 2019 to 2028 as the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace. Mandela or Madiba, as he is affectionately known to South Africans is remembered for his humility and compassion, while acknowledging his contribution to the struggle for democracy and the promotion of a culture of peace.

“Over the course of 67 years, Mandela has dedicated his life to the service of humanity as a human rights lawyer and international mediator for peace and social justice,” he said. In allusion to all the time of his work, Nelson Mandela International Day suggests that each person spend 67 minutes helping others.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, and died on December 5, 2013, and was the first black man to serve as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, elected in a multiracial and fully representative Free South Africa. Although initially committed to nonviolent protest in 1961, Mandela led a campaign against government targets. In 1962 he was arrested, tried and convicted for conspiracy against the Government and sentenced to life imprisonment. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison.

As President, he established a new Constitution and established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights violations in the country.

Mandela received more than 250 awards from around the world in recognition of his commitment to others.

Several public activities were carried out by United Nations officials and delegates in an initiative organized by the New York authorities.

The Non-aligned Movement must continue to defend respect for sovereignty and the right to self-determination

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from Television de Venezuela (translation by CPNN)

“The Movement of Non-Aligned Countries (MNOAL) must continue to strongly defend respect for sovereignty, the right to self-determination, international solidarity, as well as peace and the development of all peoples, including those who remain under the yoke of foreign domination and occupation, “said on Saturday the president of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN), Maria Fernanda Espinosa.

In a video broadcast at the Ministerial Meeting of the MNOAL Coordination Bureau, which took place in the city of Caracas with the participation of 120 international delegations, she said that since its inception the Mnoal became and continues to be a strategic partner for the United Nations, by having almost 2/3 of the membership and 55% of the world population.

In this regard, she said that the participation of this body is essential to respond to the great challenges facing society: eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, protect the environment and ensure health, education and decent work for all people.

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(Click here for the original Spanish version of this article.)

Question(s) related to this article:

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

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She argued that both organizations agree on the objective of maintaining peace and preventing conflicts, promoting dialogue, cooperation and fair solutions.

She recognized the leadership of Venezuela in this instance for bringing together 120 member countries and applauded that the MNOAL has promoted the declaration of the International Day of Mutilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, which was commemorated for the first time on April 24 of this year in a plenary session. High Level of the General Assembly. “On that occasion, with your support and leadership, we achieved a clear message in defense of an international system based on the rule of law.”

In addition Espinosa remarked that we live in a critical moment faced with the danger of resurgent extreme nationalisms, narratives of confrontation and threats of the use of force or the imposition of unilateral coercive measures contrary to international law. These contradict the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and undermine the dignity of peoples.

The President of the 73rd Regular Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, described multilateralism and international law as the only formula to achieve a true and sustainable peace.

She said that next September 13, she will convene a High Level meeting on the Culture of Peace, on the occasion of the 20 years of the emblematic declaration and Action Program on the Culture of Peace.

She will continue to advocate a culture of peace and respectful dialogue among nations.

‘Young people care about peace’: UN Youth Envoy delivers key message to Security Council

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from the United Nations Press Service

After visiting refugee camps in Jordan, UN-backed schools in Gaza, municipalities in Kosovo and Youth Councils in Denmark, the UN’s Youth Envoy visited the Security Council on Wednesday [July 17] with a simple message from the field that “young people care about peace”.

However, Jayathma Wickramanayake made clear that “young women and men still suffer from stereotypes, myths and policy panics that harm their agency and affect realizing their full potential for peace”. 

She blamed the susceptibility to being labelled on a “small minority” of young people attracted to extremism and “fueled” by the victimization of youth, “especially young women.”

The principal consequence of framing young people as “a problem to be solved and a threat to be contained”, according to Ms. Wickramanayake, is that it contributes to their “marginalization and stigmatization”. 

Moreover, she flagged that it “detrimentally skews youth, peace and security programmatic responses towards hard security approaches and away from prevention”, while ignoring the fact that “most young people are in fact not involved in violence”. 

Youth, peace and security

The Council first addressed youth, peace and security in 2015 with an open debate on the “role of youth in countering violent extremism and promoting peace”. That led to the adoption of resolution 2250, which, among other things, urged Member States to provide young people with a conducive environment for violence-prevention activities and peacebuilding efforts. 

It also mandated an independent study on youth, peace and security that later served as the basis for resolution 2419, which recognizes the key role of young people in conflict prevention.
 
Ms. Wickramanayake cited these resolutions as important in today’s world of growing terrorism, organized crime and extremist violence, to “make sure that perspectives on youth are not distorted by contagious stereotypes that associate young people with violence”. 

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(Click here for a French version of this article.)

 

Question related to this article.

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

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The youth envoy also addressed the need to protect young peacebuilders whose activities put them in the spotlight. 

“In the past months I have noticed with grave concern, incidents of young peacebuilders and young human rights defenders being subjected to threats, intimidation, violence, arbitrary arrest and retaliation by State and non-State Actors”, she said.

“I would like to recall and remind all of us with great emphasis that ‘protection’ is an integral pillar of the resolution 2250”, she stressed, calling on governments to “uphold and protect the fundamental rights of young people, including their freedom of expression both online and offline”. 

She reminded the Council that the Youth, Peace and Security agenda is being recognized and institutionalized within the UN as “core” to the Organization’s priorities for young people, and that the UN Youth Strategy, Youth 2030, identifies peace and resilience building as “one of its five core priorities for the UN System’s work for and with young people”. 

“With this first-ever UN Youth Strategy, we have set out on a new path and will support young people in all their diversity in accessing education, decent work, social protection and their health, while we will stand with young people when they oppose injustice and will work with them to prevent conflict and build peace”, maintained Ms. Wickramanayake.  

Through this, “the UN System will promote an environment that recognizes young people’s important and positive contributions to peace and security, while creating safe spaces and expanding opportunities for young people”, she added. 

We Are Here

With a nod to the First International Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes, which was held last March in Finland, the youth envoy officially launched the policy paper WE ARE HERE: An Integrated Approach to Youth-Inclusive Peace Processes.
“I hope this is the beginning of a process…for concrete actions to bring peace”, she said. 

Ms. Wickramanayake also announced that Qatar would host the second Symposium in 2020, focusing on young women’s participation in peace processes, which she hopes “will be a good opportunity to further explore the interlinkages between resolutions 2250 and 1325”.

Sustainable peace must be democratized “to include the communities most affected”, she said, arguing that “young people are our best chance in succeeding at that”. 

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Youth, Peace, Security Agenda Starting to Make Difference for Young People in Conflict Zones, But Much Work Remains, Advocates Tell Security Council

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from the United Nations Press Service

The Security Council’s youth, peace and security agenda is beginning to make a difference for young people in conflict zones and other vulnerable situations, but much work remains to effectively incorporate their voices, energy and ideas into efforts to build and sustain peace, youth advocates told the 15-member organ today.

Wevyn Muganda, Programme Director for HAKI Africa, a national human rights organization in Kenya, said that, if fully implemented, the youth, peace and security agenda can transform the lives of young people and societies.  She went on to describe her Sundays spent with young people in informal “chill spots”, known in Mombasa as maskani, where she connects with influencers and activists.  She added that her blog, “Beyond the Lines”, has helped to build an online community of peacebuilders and activists.  “[United Nations] Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) has secured me and my young peers a seat in the car,” she said, emphasizing that young people must be at the wheel to reach the desired destination.  She noted, however, that police have been accused of entering these spaces to harass and illegally arrest young people.

Sofia Ramyar, Executive Director of Afghans for Progressive Thinking, said that the bombing of her family’s home in 1995 and life as a refugee in Pakistan led her to work for peaceful coexistence in Afghanistan, with human rights for all.  “I want to assure you that the youth, peace and security agenda is preparing a generation of young women and men in Afghanistan that will lead our country towards peace, development and prosperity,” she said, while acknowledging that hierarchical relationships between men and women, as well as between elders and youth, remain dominant.  “This needs to change,” she stressed.

Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth, said “our effort to build and sustain peace needs to be democratized to include the communities most affected”, pointing out that young people provide the best chance for achieving that.  In an increasingly globalized world, Member States must keep going back to Security Council resolutions 2250 (2015) and 2419 (2018) to ensure that youth perspectives are not distorted by stereotypes that associate young people with violence, she emphasized.  With 408 million of the world’s 1.8 billion young people living in contexts affected by armed conflict, “we need to engage young people not only as beneficiaries, but as equal partners in all our efforts, especially our efforts to prevent conflict and build peace”, she added.

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Question related to this article.

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

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In the ensuing debate, Council members agreed on the importance of giving young people a bigger say in peace and security matters, with many underscoring the need to address root causes of conflict, combat terrorism and violent extremism, provide better education and dignified employment, promote the rights of women and girls, and address the challenges of climate change.

Equatorial Guinea’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa, urged support for national Governments and regional organizations in implementing the youth, peace and security agenda at the national level.  With many young people living in fragile countries, especially in Africa, the African Union attaches great importance to youth inclusion, he said.  Several African countries are working with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to support initiatives for reducing the radicalization of young people, he noted.

Kuwait’s representative said many young people in the Middle East face challenges to the attainment of their aspirations, with poverty depriving them of the right to dignity and terrorism hijacking their innocence.  He went on to highlight progress in implementing the youth, peace and security agenda in such places as Colombia, Iraq and Kosovo.

Indonesia’s representative declared:  “It is time that we transform our youth from a demographic dividend into a peace dividend,” emphasizing that the youth, peace and security agenda is not meant for Council members alone, but for all Member States.  He went on to cite his country’s experience in empowering young people to combat radicalization, including its adoption of legislation integrating youth empowerment into the national development plan.

The representative of the United States said the Council should hear directly from young people more often.  While diplomats spend a lot of time talking behind closed doors, the reality is that young people are driving and setting the political agenda, she noted.  “They are the change that is happening,” working to end tyranny and speaking up for human rights and accountability, she added.

Agreeing that the United Nations must pay greater attention to youth, the Russian Federation’s representative emphasized, however, that the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and their subsidiary bodies are better placed to address the subject.  Bringing it before the Council does not help the work of the Special Envoy on Youth, he said, warning also that some external players use radicalized youth to overthrow legitimate Governments.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Dominican Republic, France, Poland, Belgium and Peru.

(click here for the full text of their statements.)

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)