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Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Speak at United Nations

Leading grassroots peacebuilders and Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action, from six of the world’s conflict zones, made a celebrated appearance at the United Nations on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.

The event, “Turning the Tide: Engaging Religiously-Motivated Peacebuilders in Conflict Zones,” addressed two topics: alternative approaches to combating extremism and ways that grassroots peacemakers build relationships and trust with community members, diplomats and government officials.

The first panel featured Tanenbaum Peacemakers Ms. Maria Ida “Deng” Giguiento (Philippines), Mr. Azhar Hussain (Pakistan), and Ms. Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge (South Africa), as well as H.E. Mr. Rubén Ignacio Zamora Rivas, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations. H.E. Mr. Kai Sauer, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations moderated the first panel.

Peacemaker Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge highlighted the need for multi-faith peacebuilding in South African communities. She noted how, “The interfaith movement between Christians, Muslims and Hindus, created in the struggle to end apartheid, continues today, providing a moral canvas for our government.”

Tanenbaum’s most recently awarded Peacemaker in Action, Deng Giguiento, discussed how she advises military leaders as a peacebuilder in the Philippines. She described once believing that she couldn’t work with the military: “I always perceived them as the enemy. But I was taught to pray for my enemies.” Following prayer with action, Deng sees positive results as she trains both military and community members with the hope of building a “lasting peace in Mindanao.”

The second panel reviewed innovative approaches to tackling violent extremism and the prominent but frequently overlooked role of women in this field. Panelists included Peacemakers Mr. Ricardo Esquiva (Colombia), Ms. Dishani Jayaweera (Sri Lanka), and Dr. Sakena Yacoobi (Afghanistan), as well as Ms. Faiza Patel, Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, and Mr. Andrew Tomlinson, Director & Quaker U.N. Representative. Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women moderated.

Ms. Lakshmi began the panel by discussing how “Essentially religion is about humanity. It is about rights and it’s about the equality of all creatures.” Then Sri Lankan Peacemaker Dishani Jayaweera described how she created the Female Religious Leaders Initiative after working with 300 male religious leaders from diverse faith traditions. She began the initiative “to explore the role of female religious leaders in peacebuilding and reconciliation” and their “interpretation of religion and spirituality.” Her work aims to include women in the religious peacebuilding process, essential for creating lasting peace.

Peacemaker Sakena Yacoobi, who has founded numerous schools in Afghanistan, expressed, “I really strongly believe that women are the victim in every country, women and children.” And she gave insight into the solution, “If we really want to bring peace – it is not through guns, it’s not through tanks, it is through education…. education is the key issue that brings transformation”.

Peacemaker Ricardo Esquivia (Colombia) spoke about the importance of including both communities and government offices in the peacemaking process to combat extremism. “[We] use a pedagogy of nonviolence to teach communities about non-violent action, and we mobilize [groups] to interact through dialogue and direct negotiations with local and national governmental officials.”

The event at the UN was part of the 2016 Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Network Retreat, which brought together Peacemakers from all over the world to exchange ideas and best-practices in peacebuilding. This year’s retreat focused on combating violent extremism and women in peacebuilding.


We extend our gratitude to the event’s sponsors: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), KAICIID, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA), and the GHR Foundation.

President Carter promotes gender equality: News Roundup

Last week's top stories from our perspective:

President Carter Says Catholic Church Should Ordain Women; All Religions Should Promote Gender Equality

President Jimmy Carter waded in the tricky waters of gender and religion in an interview with Time.com in which he said that the Catholic church was wrong not to ordain women.

In anticipation of a conference called 'Mobilizing Faith for Women' to be held at The Carter Center this week, the former President and current Sunday school teacher was asked if "religion can be a force for women’s rights instead of a source of women’s oppression" by Time's Elizabeth Dias.

The former president said that there was movement towards equality in the major world religion but that religion had done much to support discrimination by 'ordaining' that women were not equal to men.  Huffington Post

Survey finds religious freedom did not increase during Arab Spring

The Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have not led to an increase in religious freedom where government restrictions and social hostilities against certain faiths were already high, a new report found.

Attacks on Coptic Christian communities in Egypt and rising violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria contributed to an overall increase in global religious persecution in 2011, according to an annual survey by the Pew Research Center.

The survey may be a sign that the hopes world leaders had expressed of democracy and religious freedom emerging from the uprisings in Egypt and several other countries in the region won't materialze anytime soon.    Deseret News

Some nonbelievers still find solace in prayer

New research on atheists by the Pew Research Center shows a range of beliefs. Eighteen percent of atheists say religion has some importance in their life, 26 percent say they are spiritual or religious and 14 percent believe in “God or a universal spirit.” Of all Americans who say they don’t believe in God — not all call themselves “atheists” — 12 percent say they pray.

Responding to this diversity, secular chaplains are popping up at universities such as Rutgers, American and Carnegie Mellon, and parents are creating atheist Sunday schools, igniting debate among atheists over how far they should go in emulating their theist kin.

Atheists deny religion’s claim of a supernatural god but are starting to look more closely at the “very real effect” that practices such as going to church, prayer and observance of a Sabbath have on the lives of the religious, said Paul Fidalgo, a spokesman for the secular advocacy group the Center for Inquiry. “That’s a big hole in atheist life,” he said. “Some atheists are saying, ‘Let’s fill it.’ Others are saying, ‘Let’s not.’ ”  Washington Post

Feds: Jewish groups key in foiling alleged death ray plot

ALBANY — Local Jewish organizations were instrumental in exposing the alleged plot by two men to kill Muslims and other people with lethal doses of radiation, federal prosecutors said.

Glendon Scott Crawford, 49, of Galway, and Eric K. Feight, 54, of Hudson, conceived "a mobile, remotely operated, radiation emitting device capable of killing targeted individuals silently with lethal doses of X-ray radiation," federal prosecutors said. They are charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, prosecutors said.

The alleged scheme came to light in April 2012 when a man believed to be Crawford walked into Congregation Gates of Heaven on Ashmore Ave. in Schenectady, Rabbi Matt Cutler said. The man was articulate, well-dressed, and told the staff he had a "gift" to protect the Jewish people.

"He was talking about… a weapon that would really eliminate people that he perceived were against Jews and Israel," Cutler said.  WNYT