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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.

RSVP: Tanenbaum Peacemakers at the United Nations

Tanenbaum_2016_evite

Join us this July 13th for a unique opportunity to hear from six Peacemakers in Action on the critical issues facing us today.
Click here to download the invitation and be sure to RSVP today! Space is limited.

Tanenbaum Helps Bring Religious Leaders Together to Build Peace in Sri Lanka

Three weeks before the People’s Forum 2015, the Centre for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation (CPBR)—an organization co-founded and directed by Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action recipient Dishani Jayaweera and her partner Jayantha Seneviratne—held a four-day workshop, supported by Tanenbaum, where 50 religious leaders representing the four main faiths in Sri Lanka—Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian—came together. There, the religious leaders agreed on a set of recommendations for grassroots communities, opinion makers and national policymakers, as a “path for reconciliation and peace” in Sri Lanka, to be presented at the People’s Forum. From the list of recommendations they developed a National Road Map for Reconciliation, which lays out how best to advocate and implement those recommendations.

Exemplifying the power of the Peacemakers in Action Network, facilitated by Tanenbaum, Dishani invited her fellow Peacemakers in Action from Nigeria, Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa, to help implement a process with Sri Lankan religious leaders and develop the National Road Map for Reconciliation. As men of different faiths—James a Christian and Ashafa a Muslim—they once fought for opposing militias in the Kaduna State of Nigeria. However, after experiencing hate and violence destroy their communities, they joined forces 20 years ago to found the Interfaith Mediation Centre.

At Tanenbaum’s intervention in Sri Lanka, Nigerian Peacemakers Pastor Wuye and Imam Ashafa served as “living models” for the Sri Lankans; many attendees in the workshop were already followers of the Peacemakers’ transformative work in Nigeria! Their presence in Sri Lanka was not only inspiring but manifestly instrumental due to their wealth of knowledge and experience in conflict transformation. Pastor Wuye and Imam Ashafa’s contributions were well received during the development of the Road Map.

A crucial aspect to the process leading up to the People’s Forum, and one stressed by Dishani, Jayantha and the CPBR team, was the bringing together of religious leaders to collaborate with other socially active groups. Expressing a perspective similar to Tanenbaum’s philosophy, the CPBR team explained:

“[Religious leaders] have a ready source of knowledge and potential for peacemaking… and experience in caring for and advising local communities. They are highly intelligent, well connected, duly respected and very resourceful. They could draw out their existent source of knowledge, experience and resources and use it more deliberately for peacemaking.”[i]

The People’s Forum three weeks after the workshop was a remarkable success: bringing out the power of participatory processes towards ethnic and religious coexistence. Sri Lankans of every age, gender, faith and ethnicity presented their unique set of recommendations to 1,500 guests, including government bodies, religious leaders, civil society activists, the international community and community leaders from different regions. The recommendations were from heartfelt “grassroots perspectives,” and the event revealed how Sri Lankans believe the country should proceed towards reconciliation and peace.

Tanenbaum is proud to support the peacebuilding work of Dishani, Jayantha and the CPBR team, who over the years have established grassroots groups by engaging in a consultative process with women, men, children, youth, elders, and inter- and intra-faith leaders across every geographic region of Sri Lanka to facilitate dialogue, empower individuals for self-transformation and improve communities. With commitment, each group devised recommendations to further reconciliation and peace in their communities, with the end result of an impressive 2,688 recommendations. These recommendations ranged in their focus from those that could be implemented at community and regional levels as well as changes needed in national level policies; with the latter focusing on six key thematic areas, namely, opportunities for healing for those affected by war, implement the trilingual policy, restructure the formal education system, establish an inter-faith council to promote inter-faith culture, introduce media policy that respects diversity, and introduce constitutional amendments that ensure equality and equity.

After nearly three decades of civil war in Sri Lanka, the People’s Forum 2015 marked a historical event in the country by infusing hope among the participants for a future of reconciled communities and peaceful ways of citizen participation in governance. Since gaining independence from colonial rule in 1948, Sri Lanka has suffered from ethnic and religious polarization due to weak processes in nation building, resulting in the predominant Sinhala/Buddhist community competing with, and at times fighting against, other communities vying for equality in citizenship and fair share in statehood. Even though the war was ended in 2009 and victory declared by government forces, the country remains fractured and continues to struggle to overcome religious, economic and ethnic tensions.[ii][iii] 

The People’s Forum marked the culmination of 12 years of grassroots efforts by CPBR and seven years of inter-faith engagement, with the inter-faith journey since its inception accompanied by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the German Federal Foreign Office’s (ifa) zivik funding program. Following the success of the People’s Forum, Dishani, Jayantha and the CPBR team, along with the country’s religious leaders, have initiated the process of building a broad coalition to implement the Road Map—a map created by the people of Sri Lanka for reconciliation now and for future peace.

The Tanenbaum-supported intervention in Sri Lanka leading up to the People’s Forum, and the Forum itself, show that when peace activists motivated by faith come together, peace is possible.

[i]  CPBR (2002).Socially Engaged Religions for Coexistence in Sri Lanka.

[ii]  David Feith (2010). “Tamil and Sinhala relations in Sri Lanka: a historical and contemporary perspective,” in Global Change, Peace & Security, formerly Pacifica Review: Peace, Security & Global Change, 22:3, 345-353, DOI: 10.1080/14781158.2010.510270

[iii]  CPBR (2015). People’s Forum 2015 – To Heal Our Past, to Build Our Future: The journey of community voices for national reconciliation.

Watch and Listen: Ribbons of Hope

For those of you who are not in New York City, or who were unable tot ake part in this past weekend's "Ribbons of Hope" Dedication at Battery Park, take a few minutes to watch and listen to the highlights of that moving ceremony

You can also take a look at a package put together by the Daily News, featuring our CEO Joyce Dubensky, on the Prepare New York site.

From Kellie Picallo on Vimeo.

September 12: Standing for Our Future

The truth is, I was really scared about the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  I was afraid that it would not only be a time to remember and mourn, but also a time of vitriol and hate – especially targeting Muslims. 

My friends have told me about what it is like to be Muslim in the US today. Each of them is a successful professional with a family and good job, and warm, friendly social life.  But the mothers worry about when their children will realize that Osama bin Laden said he was a Muslim (really, an extremist).  They worry how they will learn about 9/11, and what their friends will say to them.  One friend parked next to an elderly white couple at a fancy mall. They looked at him funny, so he turned back after entering the mall, just to check.  Next thing he knew, his car was keyed, and the elderly couple was gone.

So, I was scared about 9/11 this year.  But Tanenbaum is founding member of Prepare New York, the group of wonderful organizations that pooled their efforts to make sure that division would not occur. 
 
One of the things we did was Ribbons of Hope. There are12 panels to represent September 12th – the new day, after 9/11.  A new day for new beginnings.  We had ribbons of different sizes, colors and widths, and people wrote messages and tied them to the panels. The panels were in the shape of the World Trade Center, but the symbolism of hope overtook that reminder, as colors flew from them. 
 
Over three days, and through the month before, we  got ribbons from people across the globe.  We think there will be 20,000 on when the final shipments come in.  Every panel is full of ribbons with personal messages of remembrance and hope.  They’re pretty, yes, but even moreso, the words are powerful.  So many in different languages talking about peace.  So many languages – one woman told me she wrote her message in Japanese and in English.  Another wrote in Russian, another is Spanish, French, Korean, Norwegian…   
 
I was there for a lot of the day on Sunday.  The people who came were somber.  Many passersby stopped and joined us by writing a message.  One man, with his adult children, so moved me that I thought I would burst.  I asked him if he would join us in a message from his heart, a message of hope.  “I suspect you could convince me,” he said.  And that was when I realized he was wearing a worn tee shirt with a photograph of a woman with curly hair.  1949 to September 11, 2001, it said.  And her name.  I looked at him, and told him how sorry I was.  He took the ribbon and the pen.
 
And I walked away, and cried.  Again.  The only difference was this time, I also had hope.  Because I felt like he was with me, standing for our future.