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About CPNN Coordinator

Dr David Adams is the coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the International Year for the Culture of Peace, proclaimed for the Year 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly.

USA: At March for Our Lives, A Call for a Nationwide Strike of Schools

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from Common Dreams (licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in over 450 protests across the country Saturday demanding lawmakers take action on gun control laws in the wake of recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. March for Our Lives, the youth-led organization created by students who survived the mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, organized Saturday’s rallies.


An aerial view of large crowds are seen during the ‘March For Our Lives’ protest as they march on Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, United States on June 11, 2022. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun via Getty Images)

“Avoid attending school if your leaders fail to do the job and keep us safe from gun violence.”

Patricia and Manuel Oliver, whose son, Joaquin, was among those killed in Parkland, addressed the Washington, DC crowd announcing a new campaign called I Will Avoid.  “Our elected officials have betrayed us and avoid the responsibility to end gun violence…Today we announce a new call to action, because I think it’s time to bring a consequence to their inaction.”

Manuel said, “If lawmakers who have the power to keep us safe from gun violence are going to avoid taking action,” then he’s calling for a nationwide strike of schools, from elementary to college.

“Avoid attending school if your leaders fail … to keep us safe,” he said. “Avoid going back to school if President Biden fails to open a White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention so that we can finally give this issue the attention that it deserves.”

He added, “If lawmakers who have the power to keep us safe from gun violence are going to avoid taking action that will save our lives, then young people across this country, everyone else who can hear my voice should also avoid. Avoid attending school if your leaders fail to do the job and keep us safe from gun violence.”

Manuel echoed a call published last month in The Atlantic magazine “Students Should Refuse to Go Back to School” as reported by Common Dreams.

“What I say here today is mostly directed at Congress…I have reached my fucking limit! – X Gonzalez”

Parkland shooting survivor and activist X Gonzalez also spoke at the Washington rally: “What I say here today is mostly directed at Congress. I’ve spent these past four years doing my best to keep my rage in check, to keep my profanity at a minimum so that everyone can understand and appreciate the arguments I’m trying to make, but I have reached my fucking limit!”

Gonzalez drew loud cheers from the crowd. “We are being murdered. Cursing will not rob us of our innocence. You say that children are the future, and you never fucking listen to what we say once we’re old enough to disagree with you, you decaying degenerates! You really want to protect children? Pass some fucking gun laws!”

In Portland, Maine, hundreds rallied in a park outside the courthouse before they marched through the Old Port and gathered outside of City Hall. As they marched, they chanted, “Hey, hey, hey, NRA, how many kids have to die today.”


Washington, D.C . – Photo from @noahmitchell0


Portland, Maine – photo from @souelette


Nashville, Tennessee – photo from @memangrum

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Question related to this article:

Do you think handguns should be banned?, Why or why not?

Are we seeing the dawn of a global youth movement?

(Continued from left column)

Wilmington, North Carolina – photo from @SharonMahony


Oakland, California – photo from @MSCuriel


Boston, Massachusetts – photo from @Rmwarren53Bob


Oxford, Michigan – photo from @jean2rector


Denver, Colorado – photo from @CraigHebrink


Minneapolis, Minnesota – photo from @olivstev

U.S. Conference of Mayors Adopts Sweeping Resolution: “Forging a Path to Peace and Common Security”

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from Peace Action

At the close of its 90th Annual Meeting in Reno, Nevada, on June 6, 2022, the final business plenary of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) unanimously adopted a sweeping new resolution, titled “Forging a Path to Peace and Common Security.”  This is the seventeenth consecutive year that the USCM has adopted resolutions submitted by U.S. members of Mayors for Peace.


Image from the report,  Common Security 2022; For Our Shared Future

Warning that, “Russia’s unprovoked illegal war on Ukraine, which could eventually draw the militaries of the United States, its NATO allies and Russia into direct conflict, and Russia’s repeated threats to use nuclear weapons, have raised the specter of nuclear war to the highest level since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis,” the USCM “calls on the President and Congress to exercise restraint in U.S. military engagement in Ukraine while maximizing diplomatic efforts to end the war as soon as possible by working with Ukraine and Russia to reach an immediate ceasefire and negotiate with mutual concessions in conformity with the United Nations Charter, knowing that the risks of wider war grow the longer the war continues.”

Observing that “the immense nuclear arsenal of the United States, even when combined with the nuclear forces of its European allies France and the United Kingdom, failed to deter Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” and that “since the pandemic began, the U.S. has spent 7.5 times more money on nuclear weapons than on global vaccine donations,” the USCM resolution opens with a stark quote from a recent report:

WHEREAS, a new report, Common Security 2022; For Our Shared Future, sponsored by the Olof Palme Memorial Fund, finds that: “In 2022, humanity faces the existential threats of nuclear war, climate change and pandemics. This is compounded by a toxic mix of inequality, extremism, nationalism, gender violence, and shrinking democratic space. How humanity responds to these threats will decide our very survival.”

Noting that “over the next 30 years, the U.S. plans to spend some $1.7 trillion to replace its entire nuclear weapons infrastructure and upgrade or replace its nuclear bombs and warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines that deliver them,” and that “the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force in 1970, requires the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China to negotiate ‘in good faith’ the end of the nuclear arms race ‘at an early date’ and the elimination of their nuclear arsenals,” in the new resolution, the USCM

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Question related to this article:
 
Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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“calls on the U.S. and the other nuclear-armed states parties to the NPT, at the August 2022 10th Review Conference of the Treaty, to implement their disarmament obligations by committing to a process leading to the adoption no later than 2030 of a timebound plan for the global elimination of nuclear weapons by 2045, the 100th anniversary of their first use, and the 100th anniversary of the United Nations;” and

“calls on the Administration and Congress to rein in annual budgeted military and nuclear weapons spending, and to redirect funds to support safe and resilient cities and meet human needs, including by providing accessible and affordable health care for all, housing and food security, measures to assure reliable funding for municipalities and states throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and future disasters for which they are the first line of defense, green sustainable energy, and environmental protection and mitigation; and to increase investment in international diplomacy, humanitarian assistance and development, and international cooperation to address the climate crisis.”

As recognized in the resolution, “Mayors for Peace, founded in 1982 by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with 8,174 members in 166 countries and regions, including 220 U.S. members, is working for a world without nuclear weapons, safe and resilient cities, and a culture of peace, as essential measures for the realization of lasting world peace.

Noting that, “The United States Conference of Mayors has unanimously adopted Mayors for Peace resolutions for sixteen consecutive years,” the USCM “urges all of its members to join Mayors for Peace to help reach the goal of 10,000 member cities.”

The 2021 USCM resolution was sponsored by Mayors for Peace U.S. Vice-President Frank Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa, and co-sponsored by Mayor Tishaura O. Jones of St. Louis, Missouri; Mayor Patrick L. Wojahn of College Park, Maryland; Mayor Jesse Arreguin of Berkeley, California; Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, California; Mayor Joy Cooper of Hallandale Beach, Florida; Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway of Madison, Wisconsin; Mayor J. Christian Bollwage of Elizabeth, New Jersey; Mayor Quentin Hart of Waterloo, Iowa; Mayor

Greg Fisher of Louisville, Kentucky; Mayor Frank C. Ortis of Pembroke Pines, Florida; Mayor Jorge O. Elorza of Providence, Rhode Island; Mayor Farrah Khan of Irvine, California; Mayor Tom Butt of Richmond, California; Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter of San Leandro, California; and Mayor Kenneth Miyagishima of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The United States Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan association of more than 1,400 American cities with populations over 30,000. Resolutions adopted at its annual meetings become USCM official policy that will guide the organization’s advocacy efforts for the coming year.

Inside a reintegration camp for Colombia’s ex-guerrilla fighters: ‘Words of reconciliation are our only weapons now’

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from The Conversation

The election of Iván Duque four years ago was a threat for us. But we will continue to follow the peace agreement regardless of who is the next president of Colombia. We are more determined than ever to comply with the peace accords, and this is the reason they want to kill us.

Olmedo Vega  spent 35 years as a guerrilla commander during Colombia’s armed conflict – one of the longest the world has ever seen. “The FARC is my family – I grew up with the guerrillas. But now I really want to commit to this new life here in Agua Bonita, along with my old comrades.”


One of the many thought-inspiring murals painted on the houses of Agua Bonita. Photo: Juan Pablo Valderrama. Author provided

Over the past four years, we have carried out 42 in-depth interviews with former guerrilla soldiers in Agua Bonita and some of the other 25 Territorial Spaces for Training, Reintegration and Reincorporation (ETCR in Spanish), developed by the Colombian government and the UN to resettle thousands of former FARC fighters after the historic 2016 peace agreement.

We sought to understand the barriers faced by ex-combatants  as they try to reintegrate into civil society. With President Duque’s reign almost over and his successsor due to be elected on June 19, the result has major implications for the future of Colombia, the survival of the peace agreement, and the prospects of all those former combatants who have committed to a life without conflict.

After six decades of fighting, it is estimated that almost 20% of the population is a  direct victim of Colombia’s civil war – including  almost 9 million internally displaced people, 200,000 enforced disappearances, up to 40,000 kidnappings, more than 17,000 child soldiers, nearly 9,321 landmine incidents, and 16,324 acts of sexual violence.

For the almost 13,000 former FARC guerrillas, the end of the conflict initiated a process of “disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration” into Colombian society. But while positive steps were taken on both sides, more than 300 massacres  have been recorded since the peace deal was signed on September 26 2016. Some 316 FARC ex-combatants  and 1,287 human rights defenders  have been murdered during this period of “peace”, putting the agreement under increasing threat.

‘A place to have a dignified life’

The Agua Bonita  (“Beautiful water”) guerrilla demobilisation camp is located on a small plateau on the edge of the Amazon basin, about an hour’s bumpy drive from Florencia, capital city of the Caquetá department in Colombia’s Amazonía region.

Since 1970, Caquetá had been the headquarters for both FARC and the guerrillas of the Popular Liberation Army  (EPL). It is a geographically strategic corridor for illicit drug trafficking (particularly related to the production of cocaine), the transport of illegal weapons and the smuggling of kidnapped people. It is also one of the first places where guerrilla groups used landmines  to wrest territorial control from the Colombian army.

In 2017, when ex-FARC combatants first arrived in the empty area where Agua Bonita now stands, they worked with local builders for seven months to construct 63 houses using glass-reinforced plastic and average-quality plywood. Local workers from Florencia and the nearby towns of Morelia, Belen de los Andaquíes and El Paujil helped them build the camp.

“At the beginning, it was difficult to work side-by-side with the local builders because of our stigma as guerrilleros,” recalled Federico Montes, one of the community leaders. “But after six months of working with us every day, a couple of them moved with their families to live here!”

Agua Bonita is situated amid one of the most biologically diverse terrestrial ecosystems in the world; home to around 40,000 plant species, nearly 1,300 bird species and 2.5 million different insects. Red-bellied piranhas and pink river dolphins swim in the waters here – yet in both 2019 and 2020, Colombia was named the world’s deadliest country for environmentalists  by human rights and environmental observers Global Witness.

According to Montes, Agua Bonita’s high year-round temperatures and humidity mean “the weather is perfect to grow yucca, plantain, cilantro and pineapple. And if you are feeling more adventurous, you can have trees of arazacopoazuyellow pitaya  and other Amazonic crops. We are in the middle of a fruit heaven here.”

The community started with a population of more than 300 ex-FARC combatants. These days, it boasts a library with 19 computers and four printers, a bakery, convenience store and restaurant, a football pitch, health centre and community centre with a daycare facility for toddlers. Former combatants farm eight hectares of pineapple cash crop and have their own basic processing plant for fruit pulp. They also have six 13-metre-long fish tanks, a big hen house and dozens of large communal gardens.

One of the main attractions for visitors is the vibrant murals  painted on the 65 modest houses,  portraying  everything from local flora and fauna to guerrilla leaders and FARC paraphernalia. The most recurring features are the words “peace”, “reconciliation” and “hope”.

“Our main aim,” said Montes, “is to create a place to have a dignified life, where all together can be free, safe and secure, living in proper houses with access to health, employment, and education.”

Yet since the establishment of Agua Bonita in 2017, 29 ex-combatants  have been killed in the area. According to Olmedo: “During the government of Duque, there has been a shortage of food, goodwill and economic support in Agua Bonita – a total lack of governmental support. But the presidential elections are giving us hope for a better future.”

‘A lot of stigmas and negative attitudes against us’

In the run up to his election in June 2018, Duque, as leader of the right-wing Centro Democrático party, fiercely opposed the peace agreement with the FARC, vowing to renegotiate what he described as a “lenient” deal  while pledging not to “tear the agreement to shreds”.

After four years in charge, Duque – Colombia’s least popular president  in polling history – has undermined  the implementation of the peace agreement, and further polarised  the country and its politics. Levels of respect for human rights, security, quality of life and poverty have all worsened  under his militaristic tenure.

Olmedo Vega, 49, has lived in Agua Bonita from its earliest foundations. When we met him, Vega was taking part in a video letter exchange project  with young people from Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city. “Some of the questions from these students were really difficult to answer,” he told us. “There are a lot of stigmas and negative attitudes against us as ex-FARC members. ‘Terrorist’, ‘murderer’, ‘killer’, ‘scumbag’ … these are the words some people used to introduce me.”

But these days, Vega is proud to call himself a student too. One evening, during dinner, he asked us: “What did the arrival of an American astronaut on the Moon mean politically?”

As we fumbled for an answer, he interrupted to say: “I am studying four hours every day to get my qualifications: two hours in the morning, two in the afternoon. We are 30 comrades working so hard to sit the ICFES (Colombian A-level exams) next September. This is why I believe in the peace process, because now we have the opportunity to study. I want to be a doctor in the future, this is my dream. I want to help people, and to build a more equal society in Colombia.”

That evening, Vega offered us cancharina  for pudding and the sugar cane drink by paramilitary groups  in 2021.

“Jorge was my pal. He taught me how to be a good guerrillero, a good comrade. He strongly believed in the power of peace and reconciliation. I cannot understand why he was assassinated in front of his family in that bakery.”

Expressed as a cold statistic, Garzón was ex-combatant no.290 to have been murdered since the signing of the peace agreement. The political assassinationFrancia Márquez, a black environmentalist, also received death threats.
Petro led the presidential election first round on May 29 with 40% of the votes. His rival in the run-off on June 19 will be Rodolfo Hernández, a businessman-politician who is viewed as a right-wing conservative and populist outsider.

Colombia is the only major country in Latin America that has never had a leftist leader. The country’s right-wing parties and liberal establishment appear determined to maintain this record, amid campaigns that have been regularly accused of racism, sexism and classism  against Márquez in particular.

Yet according to a recent survey, 79% of Colombians believe the country is on the wrong track. Political parties have a collective disapproval rate of 76%, with the Colombian Congress only marginally less unpopular.

The successful reintegration of thousands of ex-FARC guerrillas into civil society remains one of many daunting challenges for the next Colombian government. Reintegration problems encountered by ex-combatants worldwide have included  a lack of educational opportunities, the absence of suitable career options and insufficient psychological support.

In Colombia, we have identified three crucial aspects  that are challenging successful reintegration for FARC ex-combatants: a lack of participation in the civilian economy, a lack of access to educational opportunities, and a failure by the authorities to exercise “equal citizenship” that guarantees social and civic reintegration.

At stake is the entire future of the peace agreement, and with it, prospects for reducing poverty, inequality and other dynamics of economic exclusion. Three generations of Colombians do not know what it means to live in a peaceful society. The reintegration of ex-combatants is crucial to building a general understanding that reconciliation is key to creating a new Colombia, where violence is not the answer to overcoming your problems.

‘The stigma makes it impossible to get a job’

The access road to Agua Bonita is not easy. There is no public transport, and the roads are extremely precarious. The poor transport infrastructure of Caquetá in general severely hampers the productivity of this region.

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Question related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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While the camp – which operates entirely as a cooperative – has not suffered from trade boycotts, unlike some other reintegration camps, raw materials can take months to arrive here. And the twin spectres of discrimination and unemployment loom large over residents here.

“I have plenty of stories of people saying to me: ‘You cannot get a job because you don’t deserve it, just get out of here,’” Vega told us. “I have to fight against this stigma every day, and it is worst when I have to apply for a job because sometimes people have the wrong idea about us. I am a proud ex-combatant that just wants the peace of Colombia and a decent job!”

Daniel Aldana  is one of the youngest ex-combatants living in Agua Bonita. He has been trying to get a job since 2019 but, due to the extent of criminalisation and stigmatisation of ex-FARC guerrillas in the region, he said it is almost impossible for him even to secure an interview.

“When the employers saw my identity card had been issued in La Montañita [the nearest town to Agua Bonita], they said I needed to have a ‘special selection process’. That means they will double or triple-check with the authorities if I have a police record or if my name is on a terrorist database list. If you say you are from Agua Bonita, the people say you are a terrorist. This stigma is making it impossible to get a job here.”

Aldana is not alone. Jorge Suarez, a builder who spent more than 13 years as a FARC commander, recalled going for a job interview in Florencia. “It was so humiliating. ‘Assassin’, ‘murderer’ and ‘scumbag’ were just a few of the words the people at the recruitment agency used to refer to me. Never again.”

Suarez added: “The problem is that people don’t trust us. We have done everything to show that our intentions for a peaceful future are real, yet so far we are getting only two things back: no proper jobs, and tons of bullets.”

Such experiences are not unique to ex-combatants living in Agua Bonita. Esteban Torres, a former guerrilla doing his reintegration in the Pondores  camp (ETCR Amaury Rodríguez) in La Guajira, told us he had experienced the same negative reaction.

“In Riohacha City, when I was looking for a job, the people said to me: ‘Well, you look like a nice bloke, but you have blood on your hands. You will never have a job here because you have the blood of innocent people on your hands, and you are a terrorist – a disgrace.’”

Torres continued: “That is when you realise that this is a long-term process. We need a process to remove the stigma against us from Colombian people’s hearts.”

Lessons from Northern Ireland

As well as our interviews with former guerrilla soldiers in Colombia, we also conducted 12 in-depth conversations with ex-combatants in the conflict known as The Troubles. Despite Northern Ireland’s peace agreement  having been in place for nearly a quarter of a century – and the country’s very different societal context – we found many of the raw grievances raised by ex-FARC combatants mirrored by these former political prisoners in Northern Ireland, all of whom asked to remain anonymous.

While we heard common themes expressed by loyalist and republican interviewees alike, we highlight some republican voices here as these ex-combatants were dedicated to a form of counter-state insurgency that resembled the aims of the FARC’s armed struggle against the Colombian state.

One former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, (P)IRA, spoke about his difficulties finding meaningful employment, despite the fact that he had gained educational qualifications during his time in prison. “I could only get low-level jobs. In prison I had studied so I had qualifications, but I was still only working as a kitchen porter or doorman.

“No one would employ an IRA guy,” he continued. “In one job, I was asked to leave because people found out about my past. They weren’t comfortable working with me any more.”

Another ex-(P)IRA combatant explained the complexity of simply filling out a job application form. “A job application asks: ‘Do you have a criminal record?’ If we say ‘no’ because we claim we don’t have a criminal record – we are not criminals – then we have lied and can be dis-employed, which has happened to many people. But if we say ‘yes’, then we will not get through the vetting procedure.”

Our interviews also highlighted a common resentment about the forms of legally structured discrimination that former combatants in Northern Ireland have experienced.

“We can be stopped from travelling to certain places, and certain jobs are completely off limits to us,” explained another ex-(P)IRA member. “Even our ability to spend money is restricted; we can’t purchase home insurance and car insurance. It’s an inhibitor. We can’t get business loans … It all adds up to making things more difficult for us than for everyone else.”

Many of our interviewees had either worked or volunteered for community-based organisations that sought to diffuse inter-community tensions in Northern Ireland, and to steer young people away from participation in violence. In general, an incredibly small number of ex-political prisoners on both sides have returned to political violence, and very few have been convicted for other forms of violent criminality. Yet despite this, the loyalist and republican ex-combatants we spoke to complained of being largely denied equality of citizenship, and still face blockages to participation in the civilian economy.

‘Society resents us’

More than a decade ago, Esperanza* served as a commander and learned about equal rights as she fought side-by-side with the FARC men. But as soon as she stepped into civilian life, she told us she lost her autonomy again.

“Historically, this is a patriarchal culture. Those of us who go to war break traditional roles and stereotypes set for women, so society resents us. I used to give orders and command 100 armed men, and now they are expecting me to do a cooking course! What the hell?”

Problems highlighted by Esperanza and Tania Gomez, another female ex-combatant living in Agua Bonita, include an absence of suitable career options for women, and a lack of psychological support and understanding of their needs and interests following the war. Such concerns are leading female ex-combatants to drop out of the reintegration programmes.

When the Colombian Reintegration Agency offered Gomez the chance to do a sewing and childcare course, she recalled saying to the official: “Are you kidding me! After 10 years of fighting against the Colombian Army every day, you want me to open a kindergarten? I didn’t join FARC to become a substitute mother, I am a revolutionary!”

For female ex-combatants, after long years as a fighter, the idea of “mainstream” family life can be very unappealing. “What would my life be like in the future if I follow this path?” Esperanza asked us. “Just at home with a husband, kids and playing ‘happy house’ forever? No way! I wouldn’t last a day doing that!”

The reintegration process has clearly failed to achieve genuine gender inclusiveness. When we asked Nelcy Balquiro why she joined the FARC 11 years ago, she said without hesitation: “I wanted to change the world and become somebody. I wanted to be part of something important. My dream now as a civilian is to empower everyday women about their rights and fight this patriarchal system. As a female ex-FARC commander, this is now my more important political mission.”

Discussing the wave of violence that is killing ex-combatants, Balquiro countered immediately: “Nobody says anything about the murdered females – once again the spotlight is on men! Nobody is saying a word about Maria, Patricia, Luz and the other 10 women  who have been murdered [since the peace agreement] – it is shameful.”

Balquiro wants to fight for equal pay and the right to work outside the home. She argued that “feminism is a main part of being a female ex-combatant. We are fighting now for Colombian women to have freedom from abuse and male exploitation.”

‘We are dreaming of peace’

Colombia’s outgoing leader Iván Duque will be widely remembered as a president that did nothing  to implement the peace agreement. Colombia’s election now offers a critical opportunity to address the problems amplified by four years of governmental neglect and lack of political will.

Simón* is a FARC ex-combatant living in the Icononzo  camp (ETCR Antonio Nariño) in the Andean region of Tolima. “I don’t want to live in fear for another four years,” he said.

“The feeling that paramilitary soldiers can kill you at any moment, working in alliance with the actual government, like what happened in Putumayo recently … it’s becoming unbearable. This presidential election is the opportunity to build new roads, new ways, and leave the torturous one that we are having now.”

According to Esteban Torres from the Pondores  camp: “The implementation of the peace process is similar to [Colombia’s traditional festival], Barranquilla’s carnival. Those who live it, enjoy it – and we want to continue the party. [Our goal] is not just to stop killing each other any more in Colombia; it is about creating a new culture of peace, a new rhythm.

“Duque almost killed the party. He didn’t know how to dance along with people that don’t like guns and his extreme-right perspectives. He just likes the rhythms of war. But now we have the opportunity to start tuning good vibes once again and change our future as new citizens of Colombia. My hope is to restart the party!”

Over the six-decade conflict, the Colombian state helped to create and sustain an image of FARC combatants as bloodthirsty barbarians. The new government will need to take brave and imaginative steps to break down these deep-rooted conceptions. There have already been some important initiatives, such as the letter exchanges  between former FARC combatants and Colombian civilians. However, much more must be done if the Colombian state is to avoid the long-standing forms of discrimination still being expressed by ex-political prisoners in Northern Ireland.

It’s also important, in time, to remove legal barriers to equality of citizenship. Understandable measures taken in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, such as the need to carry forms of personal identification that highlight an ex-combatant’s background, need to be subject to sunset clauses – to be lifted, for example, if an individual has met certain requirements that demonstrate their dedication to peace. Similarly, criminal records directly related to participation in the conflict might also be erased once ex-combatants have demonstrated their commitment to the agreement.

In addition, former combatants need to feel some control over their own reintegration. Many participated in combat from a very young age, and possess few skills beyond those learned in situations of violence. Peace can be very difficult for them to navigate. This needs to be recognised and incorporated into the thinking of the Colombian peace process as it develops under the new government.

On the last day of our visit to Agua Bonita, we asked Olmedo Vega what his biggest wish for the future is. “From the bottom of our hearts,” he said, “it is not to leave us alone. We have suffered war, and [since then] we have grown in hope and love. We carry on our backs the historical responsibility of generating reconciliation. We are dreaming of peace.”

*Some interviewees asked only to be identified by their first names

Bruce Kent: ‘a true man of peace’

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

An article by Ellen Teague in the Independent Catholic News

I wonder how many people hearing Bruce Kent speak about peace activism in a Tablet webinar on 12 May and then seeing him attend the annual Conscientious Objectors service in Tavistock Square on 15 May marvelled at his continuing inspirational commitment to peacemaking in his 93rd year. Of course, he was partly able to manage it with his wife of 34 years – companion peace campaigner, Valerie Flessati – alongside him. But by the end of May Bruce was struck down by illness and died on 8 June. The strongest Catholic voice for peace and nonviolence in the UK was silenced. Or was it?

Bruce Kent with his hero Franz Jägerstätter

He was a great orator and his words at Pax Christi AGMs, Justice and Peace events, protests at places from Trafalgar Square to Faslane and literally thousands of events over the years will continue to inspire the millions who heard him speak live. Indeed, many talks and interviews can be accessed on the internet. He reached one million people at just one event – the Hyde Park march and rally in London against the Iraq War on 15 February 2003. “Wave your banners” he said, “what a beautiful sight you are” and engaged the crowd probably better than anyone else that day.

But speaking out was never linked to the size of an event. In early March he felt compelled to join a small CND delegation delivering a letter to the Russian Embassy in London, which said: “For the sake of Ukrainian children taking shelter from Russian missiles; for the sake of all those who will die if the situation escalates and for the sake of the millions of us who will perish if the heightened risk of nuclear war turns into a nuclear conflict, we urge your government to halt the attacks, withdraw the troops and withdraw the nuclear threats.”

He lent support to many campaigns. Earlier this year when Campaign against the Arms Trade highlighted the seventh anniversary of the Saudi-led coalition’s entry into the war in Yemen, where the Coalition’s bombing campaign caused around 9,000 civilian deaths with many more injured, he said, “I am so glad that you have drawn attention to the barbarism of the war in Yemen in which Britain, as an arms supplier, is very responsible.” His last blog for the National Justice and Peace Network called for Catholics to support the Peace agenda of Pope Francis – eight years younger than himself. And in it he deplored that at COP26, the recent UN meeting on Climate Change held in Glasgow, the massive contribution to CO2 output by the world’s military hardly got a mention despite all the efforts of peace activists outside the official meeting.

The most prominent Catholic peace activist in Britain for more than half a century, Bruce Kent has served in management of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the International Peace Bureau, the Movement for the Abolition of War, as well as Pax Christi, the Catholic Movement for Peace. He has been vice president of both CND and Pax Christi UK.

But where did his focus on peace come from? Much is told in his autobiography ‘Undiscovered Ends’ which was produced in 1992 with only two-thirds of his life lived!

His compassion for people facing hardship or trouble, and victims of conflict, goes back to his youth. During schooldays at the Jesuit’s Stonyhurst College “where I became an orthodox, right wing young Catholic” he remembers making a fuss about the situation of a cleaner who had a two mile walk to work and he thought transport should be provided. All his life he was quietly attentive to people on the margins. After a period of national service in the British Army, where he served in Northern Ireland, and reading law at Oxford University, he entered a seminary to train as a Catholic priest. The seminary encouraged outreach and he paid weekly visits to a TB sanatorium. He reflected that, “being a Catholic was more than reciting prayers and saying Mass.”

In 1969 he was in Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War and saw the victims of the embargo imposed there. He used to point out that one and a half million people starved to death and the blockade was made possible by British weapons. “Biafra taught me the importance of fighting injustice’s causes – not just its symptoms” he said, and he has felt the same about the many wars since that time. To ignore the causes of injustice and war “is to short-change the poor of this world”. He felt that war and militarism could not be treated as separate issues by any aid agency dealing seriously with poverty.

Bruce was first introduced to the Catholic peace movement in the 1960s. He had met and greatly admired US Archbishop Thomas Roberts SJ at that time, who played a significant role in promoting recognition of conscientious objection to war, using the example of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian Catholic who was beheaded in 1943 for his refusal to serve in Hitler’s army. People like Jägerstätter, Roberts argued, should know they have the clear support of Church teaching. He also took the view that nuclear weapons involve immoral actions: the destruction of innocent people and a willingness to perform such acts in given circumstances. Bruce had witnessed ‘Ban the Bomb’ demonstrations in London and developed an affinity with peace campaigners and conscientious objectors. It was a decade that saw him working for Cardinal John Heenan in Archbishop’s House, being made a ‘monsignor’, and clearly being earmarked as a rising star in the Church. He heard remarks about damaging his career if he remained active with CND, but peacemaking had become his primary vocation.

In the 1970s Bruce was juggling chaplaincy work, parish work and peace commitments, including working in the CND office. He was inspired by the great encyclical Peace on Earth in 1963 and in 1971 by the “remarkable” document on the Church and Justice produced by the Bishops’ Synod in Rome. Called Our World and You it focused on poverty, peace, education for justice and the Church’s duty to practice what it preaches. In 1980 he became the General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, at a time when Britain announced it would be hosting American cruise missiles and build new Trident nuclear submarines with American missiles and British warheads. Membership of CND mushroomed throughout the 1980s. Bruce spoke at huge rallies, wrote articles, did interviews, debates, and visited local groups. He often returned on a late-night train from meetings round the country and rose to say early Mass in his parish before heading to the office for another hectic day. There was also a growth in heated attacks on himself and on CND. On 6 August 1986, for example, as he completed a long walk from the nuclear submarine base at Faslane in Scotland to Burghfield, the nuclear bomb factory in Berkshire, the minutes’ silence for the dead of Hiroshima and all wars was drowned out by the loud music of opponents.

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His greatest sadness was that the Catholic Church “kept the peace movement at arm’s length,” although a CND survey in the early 1980s found that 25 percent of members were also Christians active in their churches. However, there were exceptions – the late Bishop Victor Guazzelli, former President of Pax Christi, and Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood who broke ranks to call for Britain to take first steps to de-escalate nuclear build up. Bruce praised Cardinal Basil Hume “who gave me generous support” despite mounting personal criticism of Bruce’s role in CND by prominent Catholics. These were years when nuclear disarmament was a hot political issue, constantly in the news. For Bruce, things came to a head with the prospect of a 1987 general election promising another bitter contest over the nuclear issue, and further personal attacks on his leadership role in CND.

He felt he was in an impossible position. “Many of my fellow Catholics, and other Christians, told me that what I was doing as a priest gave them hope”, he says, “though I knew that most of my bishops did not think my work was priestly”. In February 1987 he took the decision to retire from active ministry, saying “I no longer find it possible to cope with the strain resulting from the tension between my pastoral role which means so much to me and what is thought to be an unacceptable political role”. In the 30 years since that time Bruce has continued his peace activism. Since 1988, his wife and peace activist Valerie Flessati has been by his side.

Bruce felt an affinity with all peacemakers and all would testify to his generosity and kindness in affirming others. At the 60th anniversary of Christian CND last year, Bruce and Valerie gave highlights of CCND campaigning. One participant said, “I will never forget Bruce turning up at Greenham Common – the site of cruise missiles – to bring chocolates and some warming Scottish ‘water of life’ during the biblical 40 days of rain after the caravans were evicted in September 1982, and many times after that!” He loved social gatherings and at his birthday parties he would have an array of party games ready for young nieces and nephews and others. My own family received cards from him regularly, whether praising articles or encouraging artistic endeavours. He gave time to sitting for son Luke and the resulting painting is today in the Bradford Peace Museum.

Bruce had endless positive energy, creativity and insight into important issues. The National Justice and Peace Network has called him a “modern prophet” and praised him for understanding “that all justice issues are connected, although his own focus was on ending war and building a culture of peace”. He was behind the DVD, Conflict and Climate Change, produced in 2009 which made links between militarism and human-induced global warming. In his speech at Coventry University last November, where he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate, he urged the student audience: “Please think for yourselves. Don’t be swept along by whatever happens to be the propaganda of the day. Ask your own critical questions. For example, why are people risking their lives trying to cross the Channel in small boats?” It was interesting when Pax Christi friends had occasional outings to the cinema to view some worthy film, that Bruce would loudly lament the adverts for violent films which preceeded it and which he felt should not masquerade as entertainment. He had an allergy to violence of any kind.

Bruce was an outspoken opponent of the British Government planning to spend more than £200 million on building and maintaining another generation of nuclear weapons to replace Britain’s current Trident system. He felt it makes nonsense of any British commitment to rid ourselves and the world of nuclear weapons. “If you have these weapons, you intend to use them” he would say, “and that is immoral”. He urged support of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Bruce educated young people about citizenship and the work of the United Nations. “I go into schools of all sorts” he said, “and ignorance of the good work of United Nations and of its sub agencies, of the International Court of Justice, or the International Criminal Court is massive”. It grieved him that, “the miracle which brought the UN to life in on 26 June 1945 remains so small a priority in the Church, and in public life generally”.

Bruce admired Pope Francis and supported his work on any action related to peace, justice, equality and the global trusteeship of our world. Bruce felt that peace on Earth is going to depend on joined up education and campaigning on overcoming poverty, militarism and climate chaos, and that Pope Francis understands these connections. “I believe in nonviolent solutions to problems” he said and was delighted that Pope Francis chose to focus on ‘nonviolence as a political choice’ for his World Peace Day message for 1 January 2017. He was full of admiration for people like Pat Gaffney, former general secretary of Pax Christi, who work quietly and constantly for the common good.

In fact, he was always anxious to recognise women. He applauded his own mother for the strong influence of her Catholic faith in his early years growing up in Hampstead, London, and also being “very generous and outgoing”, and Valerie for her peace publications and wisdom on strategising for peacework. Bruce and Valerie knew Franzisza, the widow of Franz Jägerstätter, personally and admired her support of her husband’s stance despite being left to raise their three children on her own, harassment from the local community and widowhood of seven decades. He commended Jo Siedlecka of Independent Catholic News for her interest in publishing peace events and stories, and women religious for their loyal support of Pax Christi.

Bruce engaged with groups outside church circles, wherever he found kindred spirits. In 1988 he walked 1000 miles from Warsaw to Brussels (NATO) calling for a united peaceful nuclear-free Europe. In 1999 he was British co-ordinator for the Hague Appeal for Peace, a 10,000-strong international conference in The Hague, which initiated some major campaigns (e.g. against small arms, the use of child soldiers, and to promote peace education). It was this, along with his friend, Professor Joseph Rotblat’s Nobel acceptance speech calling for an end to war itself, that inspired Bruce to establish in the UK the Movement for the Abolition of War. In 2019 the International Peace Bureau awarded Bruce the Sean MacBride Prize in recognition of his life’s work for peace and disarmament. Bruce also engaged with refugees, visited prisoners and campaigned for prison reform. He was a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Bruce said once: “I have always been a glass half full not half empty person and in terms of peace and social justice the Catholic glass is very much half full”. He felt it was amongst groups of visionary people such as Justice and Peace groups and Pax Christi, “that I find my own sources of life and inspiration”. He was, “a comfortable member of my own parish but it is with its Justice and Peace Group that I am really at home and of one mind.”

I was always surprised that Bruce was sometimes seen as a contentious figure by some Catholics. He spoke such good sense with eloquence and vast background knowledge, always ready to listen to others and to engage with differing opinions. In private, the hospitality of Bruce and Valerie was legendary, surrounded in their flat by books, posters and memorabilia testifying to their faithfulness to their vocation as Catholic peacemakers. They were strongly ecumenical too. Just over a year ago, Bruce and Valerie were jointly awarded the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lambeth Cross for Ecumenism, “for exceptional, tireless and lifelong dedication to the Christian ecumenical search for peace, both individually and together.” He was widely admired. At the London service for conscientious objectors in Central London five years ago, there was great excitement that Sir Mark Rylance was speaking, but the award-winning actor himself said his highlight of the day was meeting his “hero”, Bruce Kent.

The media was buzzing with tributes as soon as his death was announced. From around the UK and internationally Bruce was described as “a true man of peace”, “one of the greatest peace campaigners the world has ever known” and “a great human being and a prophet”. I found particularly moving, “our society is weakened by his passing”.

Bruce’s favourite quote from Catholic Social Teaching was from Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio: ‘Peace is the fruit of anxious daily care to see that each person lives in justice as God intends’. He gave faithful “anxious daily care” to his mission for peace for as long his health permitted and he will long continue to inspire.

Gabon: Training to Prepare Project of Youth as Weavers of Peace

TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

Special for CPNN from Jerry Bibang (translation by CPNN)

(Editor’s note: Two months ago, CPNN carried an article on the launch of the project Youth as Weavers of Peace in Gabon, as part of a project in the cross border regions with Cameroon and Chad, implemented by Unesco, in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). This article updates the initiative.)

The Pan-African Youth Network for the Culture of Peace, Gabon Section (PAYNCoP Gabon) recently took part in the training of trainers workshop as part of the project young people, weavers of peace. It was the town of Oyem, in the province of Woleu-Ntem, in the north of the country, which hosted this training of trainers workshop from May 30 to June 04, 2022.

The meeting brought together ten participants from the public administration, civil society organizations and United Nations experts, making it possible to build the capacities of the target actors on the related themes of culture of peace, social inclusion, human rights, gender-based violence (GBV), the fight against radicalization and violent extremism, human trafficking and migrant smuggling…

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(Click here for the original article in French.)

Question related to this article:

Solidarity across national borders, What are some good examples?

(This article is continued from the column on the left.)

Beyond theoretical knowledge, the training was an opportunity for participants to better equip themselves with the skills and competencies necessary for adult training.

“At the end of these six days of intense work, we are resolutely ready to deploy ourselves for the training of future weavers of peace”, declared Jerry Bibang, on behalf of the participants in the training.

“The Pan-African Youth Network for the Culture of Peace (PAYNCoP) as an implementing partner of this initiative is satisfied with the effective start of these trainings in Gabon and remains completely optimistic for the continuation of the activities,” he added.

The project Youth as weavers of peace in the cross-border regions of Gabon, Cameroon and Chad essentially aims to train and deploy 1,800 young people for the promotion of the culture of peace in the three countries concerned, in particular in the border towns of these three country.

In Gabon, 250 young people are concerned in the province of Woleu-Ntem, particularly in Oyem, Bitam, Meyo-Kye and Minvoul.

Alongside the deployment of young people to promote the culture of peace, the project also provides for the creation and support of a dozen community-based social enterprises to help young people become financially independent and combat unemployment, which constitutes a real threat to peace.

Hundreds Protest, Block Entrances to North America’s Largest Weapons Fair

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from World Beyond War

Hundreds of people have blocked access to the opening of CANSEC, North America’s largest weapons and “defense industry” convention at the EY Centre in Ottawa. 40 foot banners saying “Blood On Your Hands,” “Stop Profiting From War,” and “Arms Dealers Not Welcome” obstructed driveways and pedestrian entrances as attendees attempted to register for and enter the convention centre immediately before Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand was slated to give the opening keynote address.


“The same conflicts around the world which have brought misery to millions have brought record profits to arms manufacturers this year,” said Rachel Small, organizer with World BEYOND War. “These war profiteers have blood on their hands and we are making it impossible for anyone to attend their weapons fair without directly confronting the violence and bloodshed they are complicit in. We’re disrupting CANSEC in solidarity with the millions of people around the world who are being killed, who are suffering, who are being displaced as a result of the weapons sold and military deals made by the people and corporations inside this convention. While more than six million refugees fled Ukraine this year, while more than 400,000 civilians have been killed in seven years of war in Yemen, while at least 13 Palestinian children were killed in the West Bank since the start of 2022, the weapons companies sponsoring and exhibiting in CANSEC are raking in record billions in profits. They are the only people who win these wars.”

Lockheed Martin, one of the major sponsors of CANSEC, has seen their stocks soar nearly 25 percent since the start of the new year, while Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman each saw their stock prices rise by around 12 percent. Just prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Officer James Taiclet said on an earnings call that he predicted the conflict would lead to inflated defence budgets and additional sales for the company. Greg Hayes, CEO of Raytheon, another CANSEC sponsor, told investors earlier this year that the company expected to see “opportunities for international sales” amid the Russian threat. He added: “I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit from it.” Hayes received an annual compensation package of $23 million in 2021, an 11% increase over the previous year.

“The weapons, vehicles and technologies promoted at this arms show have profound implications for human rights in this country and around the world,” said Brent Patterson, Director of Peace Brigades International Canada. “What is celebrated and sold here means human rights violations, surveillance and death.”

Canada has become one of the world’s top arms dealers globally, and is the second biggest weapons supplier  to the Middle East region. Most Canadian arms are exported to Saudi Arabia and other countries engaged in violent conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, even though these customers were repeatedly implicated in serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Since the beginning of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen in early 2015, Canada has exported approximately $7.8 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia, primarily armored vehicles produced by CANSEC exhibitor GDLS. Now in its seventh year, the war in Yemen has killed over 400,000 people, and created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Exhaustive analysis  by Canadian civil society organizations has credibly shown these transfers constitute a breach of Canada’s obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which regulates the trade and transfer of weapons, given well-documented instances of Saudi abuses against its own citizens and the people of Yemen. International groups like the Yemen-based Mwatana for Human Rights, as well as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have also documented the devastating role of bombs produced by CANSEC sponsors like Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin in air strikes on Yemen that hit, among other civilian targets, a marketplace, a wedding, and a school bus.

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Question related to this article:

How can the peace movement become stronger and more effective?

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“Outside its borders, Canadian corporations plunder the oppressed nations of the world while Canadian imperialism benefits from its role as a junior partner in U.S.-led imperialism’s vast complex of military and economic warfare,” said Aiyanas Ormond, with the International League of Peoples’ Struggle. “From its plunder of the mineral wealth of the Philippines, to its support for Israeli occupation, apartheid and war crimes in Palestine, to its criminal role in the occupation and plunder of Haiti, to its sanctions and regime change machinations against Venezuela, to arms exports to other imperialist states and client regimes, Canadian imperialism uses its military and police to attack the people, suppress their just struggles for self-determination and for national and social liberation and to maintain its regime of exploitation and plunder. Let’s join together to shut down this war machine!”

In 2021, Canada exported more than $26 million in military goods to Israel, an increase of 33% over the previous year. This included at least $6 million in explosives. Last year, Canada signed a contract to purchase drones from Israel’s largest weapons maker and CANSEC exhibitor Elbit Systems, which supplies 85% of drones used by the Israeli military to monitor and attack Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. An Elbit Systems subsidiary, IMI Systems, is the main provider of 5.56 mm bullets, the same type of bullet that was used by Israeli occupation forces to murder Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

CANSEC exhibitor the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a government agency that facilitates deals between Canadian arms exporters and foreign governments recently brokered a $234 million deal to sell 16 Bell 412 helicopters to the military of the Philippines.  Ever since his election in 2016, the regime of Philippine president  Rodrigo Duterte has been marked by a reign of terror  that has killed thousands under the guise of an anti-drug campaign, including journalists, labor leaders, and human rights activists.

12,000 attendees are expected to gather for the CANSEC arms fair this year, bringing together an estimated 306 exhibitors, including weapons manufacturers, military technology and supply companies, media outlets, and government agencies. 55 international delegations are also slated to attend. The weapons expo is organized by the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), which represents more than 900 Canadian defense and security companies.

BACKGROUND

Hundreds of lobbyists in Ottawa represent arms dealers not only competing for military contracts, but lobbying the government to shape the policy priorities to fit the military equipment they are hawking. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, BAE, General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, Airbus, United Technologies and Raytheon all have offices in Ottawa to facilitate access to government officials, most of them within a few blocks from Parliament. CANSEC and its predecessor, ARMX, have faced staunch opposition for over three decades. In April 1989, Ottawa City Council responded to opposition to the arms fair by voting to stop the ARMX arms show taking place at Lansdowne Park and other City-owned properties. On May 22, 1989, more than 2,000 people marched from Confederation Park up Bank Street to protest the arms fair at Lansdowne Park. The following day, Tuesday May 23, the Alliance for Non-Violence Action organized a mass protest in which 160 people were arrested. ARMX did not return to Ottawa until March 1993 when it took place at the Ottawa Congress Centre under the rebranded name Peacekeeping ’93. After facing significant protest ARMX didn’t happen again until May 2009 when it appeared as the first CANSEC arms show, again held at Lansdowne Park, which had been sold from the city of Ottawa to the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton in 1999.

UN rights chief concludes China trip with promise of improved relations

. HUMAN RIGHTS .

An article from the United Nations

High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet during her visit to China, in Ürümqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. (Photo from OHCHR)

At the end of her official visit to China, the first such trip in 17 years, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet announced new areas of engagement between her office and the Chinese Government on rights issues, and summarized the many rights issues raised during her six-day May mission.

During Saturday’s virtual press conference, Ms. Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, outlined the new opportunities for dialogue between her office and the Chinese authorities that were discussed during the visit, which include an annual senior strategic meeting, and a working group that will meet in Beijing and Geneva, as well as online.

The working group, explained Ms. Bachelet, will discuss specific thematic areas, including development, poverty alleviation and human rights, minority rights, business and human rights, counterterrorism and human rights, digital space and human rights, judicial and legal protection, and human rights.

The High Commissioner pointed out that, as her Office does not have a presence in China, the working group will allow for structured engagement on these and other issues, and provide a space for her team to bring specific matters of concern to the attention of the Chinese Government.

Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong on the agenda

During her mission, Ms. Bachelet spoke with a range of government officials, several civil society organisations, academics, and community and religious leaders. In addition, she met several organizations online ahead of the visit, on issues relating to Xinjiang province, Tibet, Hong Kong, and other parts of China. 

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Question for this article:

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

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In Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur minority, Ms. Bachelet raised questions and concerns about the application of counterterrorism and de-radicalisation measures and their broad application, and encouraged the Government to undertake a review of all counterterrorism and deradicalization policies, to ensure they fully comply with international human rights standards, and are not applied in an arbitrary and discriminatory way.

On the Tibet Autonomous Region, Ms. Bachelet reiterated the importance of protecting the linguistic, religious, and cultural identity of Tibetans, and allowing Tibetans to participate fully and freely in decisions about their religious life, and for dialogue to take place. 

Regarding Hong Kong, Ms. Bachelet urged the Government to nurture – and not stifle – the tremendous potential for civil society and academics in Hong Kong to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights. She described the arrests of lawyers, activists, journalists and others under the National Security Law as “deeply worrying”, and noted that Hong Kong is due to be reviewed by the UN Human Rights Committee in July.

“To those who have sent me appeals, asking me to raise issues or cases with the authorities – I have heard you”, she declared. “I will continue to follow up on such issues and instances of concern on a sustained basis”.

‘China has a very important role to play’

The rights chief praised China’s “tremendous achievements” in alleviating poverty, and eradicating extreme poverty, 10 years ahead of its target date. 

The country, she added, has gone a long way towards ensuring protection of the right to health and broader social and economic rights, thanks to the introduction of universal health care and almost universal unemployment insurance scheme. 

A number of other developments in the country were welcomed by Ms. Bachelet, including legislation that improves protection for women’s rights, and work being done by NGOs to advance the rights of LGBTI people, people with disabilities, and older people.

The UN rights chief underscored the important role that China has to play, at a regional and multilateral level, and noted that everyone she met on her visit, from Government officials, civil society, academics, diplomats and others, demonstrated a sincere willingness to make progress on the promotion and protection of human rights for all. 

(Editor’s note: Bachelet’s trip does not support US propaganda claiming that China is engaged in genocide in Xinjiang.)

English bulletin June 1, 2022

. A GLOBAL YOUTH MOVEMENT? . .

Are we seeing the dawn of a global youth movement for peace and sustainable development?

If Australia is an example, the answer may be positive.

In Australia, the political landscape was changed radically in recent elections that saw young people turn out to vote in record numbers to address the issues they care about most: climate change, housing affordability and the rising cost of living. The electoral “greenslide” was made mostly of wins for seats that have the highest population of young people. 

In other countries around the world, it is the new generation that has taken the lead for social change.

In Chile, the young president Gabriel Boric won at the polls in December with historic popular support that surpasses even what the candidate’s own supporters could have imagined. In this sense, an important variable for the victory was undoubtedly the participation of young people. The youthfulness of Gabriel and the team that accompanied him in his campaign was a great asset in the face of a society tired of the same old faces, where young people had been neglected. His movement represents not only a political change, but also a generational change; there is no doubt that it accompanies a process that has been fundamentally raised in recent times by young people.

In Brazil, an army of volunteers, in just a few short weeks, have registered hundreds of thousands of first-time voters. Their nationwide drive is taking aim at youth voter apathy – and may help to boost a slipping advantage for left-wing former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as he seeks to unseat far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in October’s election. “Nobody likes Bolsonaro,” said Evelyn Santana, 17, shortly after registering to vote. “Among my friends, most people are going to vote for (Lula). They want Bolsonaro gone.” Polls show the trend holds up nationally. More than half of young people aged 15-24 prefer Lula, according to a survey by pollster Datafolha, while less than 25% of that age group back Bolsonaro.

In Colombia, Gustavo Petro’s candidature for president goes into the run-off election with the support, above all, of Colombian youth, who demand changes and an improvement in living conditions. In fact, that request was shouted for months last year in the streets of Colombia, during an unprecedented National Strike. Young people are a key demographic for Gustavo Petro, who has close to 50% support among voters in that age group. The run-off election will take place on June 19.

In France, young voters are the key to the possibilities of the Left political parties, united in a coalition named NUPES (Nouvelle Union Populaire Ecologique et Sociale) to gain power the National Assembly in elections scheduled for June 12 and 19. In this context, considerable publicity was given to a speech delivered at the prestigious AgroParisTech graduation ceremony on May 10, in which eight students said they refused to perform “destructive jobs” and called on their comrades to join the ecological struggles and to work with their hands.

In the United States, it is students who have taken the lead in responding to continued school massacres by demanding that military weapons should be banned from sale. Although President Biden has said that something should be done, the US Congress continues to be dominanted by the gun lobby. “Legislators need to keep in mind that if we can’t vote now, they need to listen because we will be able to vote eventually,” said Maddie Ahmadi, a 17-year-old advisory board member for Students Demand Action. “And if they are not hearing us and they are not passing common sense gun legislation, we are going to vote them out of office.”

And in Russia, where President Putin and the Duma legislature are pushing the war in the Ukraine and suppressing any expression of opposition, young people are the only part of the population who are against the war. In the poll taken at the beginning of March, only 29% of youth aged 18-24 supported the war, while it was supported by 60% of the general population. Time will tell if their opposition can help end the war.

Despite all of the bad news (war in Ukraine, climate change, global famine, information wars, massive migrations) and dire predictions (crash of dollar, fall of Putin, civil war in the United States, danger of World War III), can we still dream of the promised land of peace? We can only hope that the new generation will provide the leadership required to survive this perilous period of history and guide us towards a culture of peace.

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY

disarm-us

‘We Refuse to Go On Like This’: US Students Walk Out to Demand Gun Control

TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY

tol

Palestine: Tears and hope from the last few days

WOMEN’S EQUALITY

women

Women of the World Call for Peace

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

info

World Social Forum 2022 Declaration: Building together a common agenda for another urgent and necessary world

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

dev

France: “Desertons”: young engineers call for refusing “destructive jobs”

DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION

dem-rev

The Boric effect on Chilean youth

HUMAN RIGHTS

hr

‘It’s a Fight They’ll Get’: Defenders of Abortion Rights March throughout the United States

EDUCATION FOR PEACE

ed

Ecuador: Hip-hop and urban art are reaffirmed as a ‘culture of peace’ at a festival in Garza Roja

The arduous path that Petro’s left must travel to reach power in Colombia

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from France24 (translation by CPNN)

Colombians voted May 29 and set up a second round between the leftist Gustavo Petro, who promises generous social programs, and Rodolfo Hernández, an eccentric business magnate. In its history as a democratic republic, Colombia has never been governed by a leftist executive. This is the year it is possible, but with Hernández in the ballot, who will receive the support of the majority of the votes of the other candidates, the path becomes difficult.

Gustavo Petro, head of the Historical Pact, won this Sunday, May 29, in the first round of the presidential elections and will face a surprising candidate in the second round, on June 19: businessman Rodolfo Hernández.


In the first election, the vote of the youth was key, of which a large part participated in the protests that shook the country last year. © Juan Barreto / AFP

Petro, an active politician and former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement, obtained 40.3% of the votes according to the pre-count of the National Registry. Rodolfo Hernández, for his part, former mayor of the city of Bucaramanga, obtained 28.1% of the vote, leaving the right-wing candidate, Federico Gutiérrez, who for weeks remained as the second option in the polls, outside the final contest.

A historical milestone for Colombia

A definitive victory for Petro would be a paradigm shift: the possible arrival of the left to power in Colombia as an a historical fact.

In the Andean nation, the majority governments of the right and even the extreme right succeeded each other for decades. “The left has always been marginal, unlike other countries in the Southern Cone, which have a leftist tradition with more electoral success,” explains Miguel García, professor of Political Science at the Universidad de los Andes, to France 24.

However, the left has gained strength in the country in recent years. Petro’s candidature was supported, above all, by Colombian youth, who demand changes and an improvement in living conditions. In fact, that request was shouted for months last year in the streets of Colombia, during an unprecedented National Strike.

Young people are a key demographic for Gustavo Petro, who has close to 50% support among voters in that age group. The leftist systematically led the opinion polls for his promises to redistribute pensions, offer a free public university and change what, according to him, are centuries of deep inequality, but he was about 10% away from dodging a run-off ballot, far from the most optimistic forecasts, which were as high as 46%.

The advantage in the first round will not compensate for the difficulties ahead for the candidate on the left

The victory of Petro, who is running for the third time in an election, would mean, according to Miguel García, “the triumph of a highly critical discourse towards the structures that have traditionally governed Colombia. It would be the rejection of a society based on inequality and symbolic hierarchies”.

However, the results of the first round do not mean that the game is won for Petro because the radical past of Petro weighs heavily in the debates and public opinion, and furthermore, his electoral rival prevents him from making a speech as polarizing as he would like.

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

Questions related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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The other strong criticism of the candidate is the supposed future collapse that his victory would mean for the Colombian economy. His main opponent, Federico Gutiérrez, warned, for example, that the leftist’s economic plans, which include a ban on new oil and gas projects, would, according to him, ruin the country.

A “Chavista Colombia” unlikely if Petro wins

For his part, Petro has rejected repeated accusations that he will imitate the policies of the late former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro.

Regarding this repeated comparison between the current Venezuela and a Colombia governed by the left, the expert Miguel García maintains: “I think that the possibility exists. But with what probability? There is also the probability that an asteroid will fall and the earth will disappear … However, I think those fears are a bit unfounded. Petro represents a lot of uncertainty, to be sure, but not of this kind.”

Throughout an electoral campaign plagued by controversy and accusations, many analysts agreed on one point: the most difficult scenario for Petro would be a second round against the populist Rodolfo Hernández.

The Hernandez Phenomenon

And it turns out that the construction tycoon obtained this Sunday 28.1% of the votes. The septuagenarian has surged in the polls in the past two weeks, buoyed by his colorful social media presence and anti-corruption promises.

Hernández himself, 77, is facing an ongoing investigation into his alleged intervention when he was mayor of Bucaramanga that benefited a company for which his son was lobbying, something he has repeatedly denied..

In the second round, Hernández could count on the support of a broad ‘anti-petrista’ front: “He represents that conservative modernization so particular to Colombia, which does not question the status quo, but rather the political class and corruption. He is the perfect incarnation of the outsider Latin American who says what he thinks. He has a confrontational and authoritative discourse, willing to put an end to the great evils of the country. A mixture of Trump and Bolsonoro.”

But if he wins, the septuagenarian will not have an easy way to govern. Professor Garcia describes a possible scenario of confrontations with the entire Congress: “Hernández does not have a single legislator! In the legislative chambers the left has unprecedented terrain. He would have to approach the center-right sectors, which are precisely the object of his criticism”.

And he adds: “Trying to govern without Congress in Colombia is not easy. We have a very effective coalition tradition, and we have never seen that type of dispute.” On Petro’s side, the analyst speaks of a more feasible way to form a coalition, in addition to having a large part of Congress on his own political side.

Some results that reflect the fall of the right and “the defeat of a mediocre government”

The big loser of the day was Federico Gutiérrez. The former mayor of Medellín, from the right and the candidate most enlisted in official politics, obtained 5,054,993 votes, equivalent to 23.91% of the total votes. Although the opinion polls had predicted him as a candidate for the presidency in the second round, the conservative candidate did not detach himself from the accusations of being an ideological successor to the unpopular president Iván Duque and former president Álvaro Uribe, something that he wanted to distance himself from, without success. .

“His defeat reflects the defeat of a mediocre government, which was never linked to the citizenry, which always took the opposite side. The example of last year’s protests is enough: Faced with clear violations of human rights, the president preferred to wear a police jacket,” says Miguel García. And indeed, President Iván Duque is finishing his term with a disapproval that exceeds 67%.

Between these two candidates who claim a break, the next three weeks, until June 19, both will offer a tug-of-war between two proposals for change. The final decision will be made by the Colombians, who this Sunday said yes to the change, but it is not known exactly which one and in what direction.

Brazil: “Politics for the Common Good” Notebook Offers Reflections on Politics as an Expression of Christian Charity in view of the 2022 Elections

. . DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION . .

An article from the Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil (translation by CPNN)

A group of Church bodies in Brazil, including the Pastoral Episcopal Commissions for the Laity and for Socio-Transforming Action of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), have published the booklet “Politics for the Common Good”.

The project takes up central questions from Pope Francis’ encyclicals – Laudato Sí, Fratelli Tutti and the post-synodal exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which deal, among other topics, with the joy of the Gospel, care for the common home (environment) and it addresses Politics as an ethical consequence of the commandment of love.

The publication is organized into five chapters: a) The universality of Christian Love; b) Social friendship and ethics in politics; c) The great causes of the Gospel; d) Take care of the Common House; and d) 2022 – Elections and Democracy.

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

Question related to this article:

How should elections be organized in a true democracy?

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Ecclesiastical and civil citizenship

Referring to the publication, the Archbishop of Belo Horizonte (MG) and president of the CNBB, Dom Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo, state that it is the result of an offer that marks the sense of the common interest of lay and lay Christians to contribute to their civil citizenship.

It is, according to the president of the CNBB, another formative possibility as an important contribution in the field of citizen political education, for truth in politics, bringing together lessons from our beloved Pope Francis, to inspire studies, reflections and attitudes to help each person to recognize himself as important, and essential to build a world with the features of the Kingdom of God.

The president of the CNBB argues that “no Christian can remain oblivious to the task of contributing to society becoming more just, solidary and fraternal: it is a commitment of faith to devote attention to politics, seeking to rescue its noble vocation – a singular expression of charity” .

To whom it is addressed

The section “Politics for the Common Good” is the result of the work of a network of organizations, services, social pastorals and Church bodies, the Brazilian Network of Faith and Politics, and aims to open up the horizons of Good Politics to more people in the Church.

It is aimed especially at people active in communities and parishes, such as animators and animators of celebrations, catechists, ministers and ministers of the Word, participants in groups and movements, and pastoral workers in general.

A copy can be downloaded here: Caderno Encantar a Política

(Thank you to Herbert Santos for sending this article to CPNN.)