Posts

Safe but Scared in Kabul – Tanenbaum Peacemaker Jamila Afghani

Tanenbaum Peacemaker Jamila Afghani, Afghanistan

Yesterday morning’s deadly truck bombing in Kabul was a horrific tragedy. At Tanenbaum, it’s also personal.

The explosion, which killed more than 80 people and wounded hundreds more, shook Kabul as our Peacemaker Jamila Afghani was on her way to work. When we reached her later in the day, Jamila was at home with her family and all were safe. Safe, but very scared. They live close enough to the bomb blast that all her windows were smashed, and the walls cracked open.

At Tanenbaum, we work with Peacemakers from around the world like Jamila, who pursue peace in the places where violence and conflict are the norm. Jamila focuses on improving the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan, despite the violence and constant threats. She is a woman of faith and fearless vision. But on a day like today, her only words were that the bombing was “extremely terrifying” and that it struck “fear in my heart.”

As we continue to mourn the attacks in Manchester, Cairo, and Portland, we must remember those killed and injured in Kabul.

Terrorism has no bounds. It strikes with ferocity. By remembering all the victims, survivors and their families whether in Manchester or Kabul, we align with those who oppose hatred and terror. By acknowledging the random impact of terror on people from all backgrounds, nationalities and religions, we lay claim to our humanity.

Today, we are reminded that greater security and protection for civilians in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan is critically needed. As the international community takes action to stop the terror, let it remember the people of Kabul and the long Afghan war. Let us devote more resources to peacebuilding and diplomacy—and to advancing the work of religious Peacemakers like Jamila.

 


To read more about Tanenbaum Peacemaker Jamila Afghani, please visit her profile page here.

Sunday Slaughter of Christians

Friends,

Today, on Palm Sunday, violent extremists struck at the heart of Coptic Christians, when suicide bombers killed at least 44 people and injured more than a hundred in two churches in Egypt. Both churches were filled with congregants, peacefully gathered to celebrate one of their holiest days.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the brutal attacks – crimes against humanity, this time, against a minority Christian community in the Middle East. Not only did these communities lose loved ones on this holy day, but the extremists tried to destroy the feeling of communal security that houses of worship can provide.

Tragically, these suicide bombings are not isolated events. Instead, they are the latest in a litany of attacks against Coptic Christians in recent decades, including the destruction of 40 Coptic Churches in 2013, the beheading of 21 Copts by ISIS in Libya in 2015, and the murder of 30 at a cathedral in Cairo last December.

Today, as we keep the Coptic Christian community in our thoughts, let us honor the victims by recalling the significance of the palm branch. For many, it’s a symbol of peace and victory.

Together, we can choose to define peace as more than just freedom from violence. We can define it as a world where justice is practiced, where differences of belief (or lack of belief) are respected, religious minorities are welcomed and their freedoms protected. Today, on what is a holy day for so many worldwide, let’s recommit to pursuing peace by accepting others and honoring the freedom of peaceful worship.

Wishing all who celebrate, a blessed Palm Sunday,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Confronting Religious Violence

Union Theological Seminary
October 2-3, 2015

3,000 female captives held by ISIS. American Journalist Eliza Griswold told the story of one of these women, relating how, with the intervention of her father, she managed to survive and became one of the lucky few who escaped her captors.

Griswold offered poignant narratives obtained from members of the Iraqi minority communities living under ISIS during her remarks that marked the first day of the conference on Confronting Religious Violence hosted by the Union Theological Seminary early in October. Injecting a personal and human element into her remarks, Griswold spoke of a father she had interviewed who was forced to pose as a member of ISIS to purchase his daughter in order to get her back from the ISIS traffickers who had kidnapped her. Although there was a happy ending for this family, the tragic realization that so many others will not have such good fortune is heart wrenching.

Griswold spoke eloquently of the fine line she must always walk as a journalist and the need to avoid any appearance of being an activist. Although most people would agree that the powerful stories of the people who live amidst this terror are essential to the discussion of religious violence, they give rise to the question of “what do we actually mean by ‘religious violence?’”

Rev. Serene Jones, President of the Union Theological Seminary, started the conversation with the concepts of “Informed piety” and “compassionate wisdom,” tenets of the Seminary, along with “intellectual responsibility and a seriousness of focus” that must pick up where “religious violence” has become a trite reference when framing the complex nature of the conflicts we face today. We must understand current global conflicts contextually and not simplify their complex births with crude and ironically loaded terminology that has become ‘obsolete,’ ‘irrelevant’ and ‘ambivalent.’ In an effort to do just that, the conference sought to bridge the divide between the scholarly, religious and policy-making worlds. The historical, theological, political and legal discourse regarding the causes as well as the interpretation of and response to current trends of religious violence were explored. Speakers spanning a broad range of disciplines highlighted the shortcomings of the current mainstream understanding of “religious conflict” and specifically addressed the fallout from the war in Iraq and the current crisis in Syria. The conversation, although occasionally heated, found a consensus when the term “religious violence” came under review. However, while all agreed that religion does indeed matter, their thinking diverged on how it matters.

Father Patrick Ryan S.J., the McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University stated, “We people of faith have seldom looked inter-subjectively at war.” Father Ryan’s examination of the “fatal subjectivities” of the Abrahamic faiths, both in antiquity and modernity, was a powerful moment of reflection during the conference, which revealed how deeply religion does indeed matter.

In contrast, scholar Dr. Hossein Kamalay of the Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures Department at Barnard College sought to highlight the deficiencies in using the history of Islam and its theological underpinnings to understand today’s religious violence. Paraphrasing his argument, he suggested that violence could not be solely understood in terms of religion and belief but that it must be understood within the context of the economics, politics and the ever importance of power relations in a particular situation. Moreover, what we choose to study from the past greatly matters and it is in what we do not examine in history that may hold a key to understanding our present circumstances, i.e., what could have been done to create a situation of peaceful coexistence. It matters what people believe but let us not just speak of belief.

Dr. Scott Tenner presented a unique legal and historical perspective of the current crises in the Middle East. After his presentation, one was left to ask why longstanding international legal bodies have been underutilized and rendered futile during this extensive crisis. Continuing the legal discussion, Dr. Najam Haider of Barnard College spoke of the evolution of Islamic law from antiquity to the present. In contrast to what most people believe, it should be noted that Islamic law is inherently flexible and was therefore never codified.

Solutions remain elusive, but understanding the nature of conflicts will allow policymakers, academics and activists to respond in an appropriate, opportune and effective manner, which is what all those who work in the field of conflict resolution and peacebuilding seek to accomplish!

Please Think About Andrew White – As ISIS Menaces Baghdad

Canon Andrew White

 

Right now, all we can do is pause, hope, and for those who pray – to pray.

Canon Andrew White, one of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action, was interviewed from Baghdad where he continues to tend to the dwindling Christian community and their neighbors.

He remains in Iraq, even though he tells us that ISIS is descending on Baghdad. Word is that they are about 5 miles out. Andrew is supposed to have some protection from Iraqi soldiers assigned to defend him. But his soldier told him that, if ISIS comes, he will take off his uniform and run! Andrew believes that ISIS must be defeated by ground troops – but there are none. And meanwhile, the roads out of Baghdad are blocked.

And so I ask you to join us today – to pause and remember Andrew and all the Iraqi people.

Thank you for caring,

Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO

A Child is Slaughtered…A Peacemaker Mourns

We are deeply saddened to report that a 5 year old Christian boy, named Andrew after our Peacemaker Rev. Canon Andrew White, was murdered and cut in half by Islamic State terrorists (ISIS) during an invasion of Qaraqosh, a small Christian town in Iraq.

“I’m almost in tears because I’ve just had somebody in my room whose little child was cut in half,” Anglican Canon Andrew White of St. George’s Church told the Anglican Communion News Service. “I baptized his child in my church in Baghdad. This little boy, they named him after me — he was called Andrew.”

“When this story came across the wires, we looked at it, thought of our Peacemaker in Iraq, Canon Andrew White. It leaves me without words. All we could do was to try to call him. But we haven’t been able to reach him yet.”
– Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO of Tanenbaum

Known as the Vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White has declared to news sources that he refuses to leave Baghdad. VICE News filmed a short documentary series about Andrew and his work which can be found in our blog post here.

 

Top News Stories

Thousands of Yazidis are stranded without water and food in the Sinjar mountains after fleeing ISIS. IMAGE: EMRAH YORULMAZ/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES

Under the cover of nightfall, ISIS terrorized the small town of Sinjar located in the mountainous region of northern Iraq. By the following day, thousands of atrocities had been committed and documented on social media – children beheaded, crucifixions in the park and deplorable acts of violence that haunt the soul.

A Friend Flees the Horror of ISIS is the story of Karim as published by The New Yorker. Karim is a Kurdish member of the Yazidis, a religious minority group in Iraq that has been vehemently targeted by ISIS because of their religious beliefs along with Christians and other minority groups.

IRAQ: Be Aware, Stay Committed: A statement by Joyce Dubensky, CEO, on the atrocities committed by ISIS against the Yazidi people.

Also in Iraq, Tanenbaum Peacemaker, Canon Andrew White, the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’, declared to the Huffington Post that he refuses to leave Iraq, despite Christian Persecution by ISIS.

Peacemaker, Canon Andrew White is Chaplain at Baghdad’s St George’s Anglican Church. In a CNN video, he estimated that St. George had approximately 6,000 members – and in the last ten years, more than 1,200 have been killed.
That is a death toll of 20% – or in other words, 1 in every 5 church members is now deceased.

On a more uplifting note, The Religious Market Theory of Peace is a new report that outlines seven reasons why religious freedom promotes economic growth. Research was conducted by Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and Roger Finke, a Penn State Professor. They concluded from data analysis that religious freedom reduces corruption and fosters peace by decreasing violence related to religion – thus contributing to economic growth and stability.

 

IRAQ: Be Aware, Stay Committed

Tens of thousands of Yazidis have fled ISIS and are stranded on a barren mountain in Iraq. (Photo Credit: The Times UK)

Dear Friends,Two weeks ago, one of our Peacemakers, the Rev. Canon Andrew White in Iraq, reported that 1,500 Yazidis (an Arab and Kurdish religious community) were executed in one day by ISIS insurgents. These insurgents are moving through Iraq, taking over towns and slaughtering entire communities.

Most of world was unaware of these massacres when Andrew first reported what was happening.

Three days ago, a Yazidi member of Iraqi Parliament collapsed in tears, calling upon the world to rescue the Yazidis. “A whole religion is being wiped out from the earth,” she cried. Click here to watch the video.Two days ago, The New Yorker published a story about these horrors, claiming an even higher death toll than Andrew’s report of 1,500 executed in one day. Click here to read this story.

Thousands of Yazidis have fled to the top of a mountain in Iraq. Yesterday the UN stated that some Yazidis have been rescued. Up to 50,000 Yazidis, however, have fled their homes. If they stay in the mountains, they will starve to death. If they come down, ISIS (now the Islamist State) will most likely execute them. Click here to learn more about another ISIS massacre (WARNING:gruesome images).

Andrew, our Peacemaker, won’t leave Iraq. The Huffington Post interviewed Andrew on video and posted it yesterday. Watch it here.

The humanitarian food drops from Turkey and the United States are important. But they are not the solution. We can help by remaining steadfast and aware of the atrocities perpetrated in the name of religion.

We salute all of our Peacemakers, who – like Andrew – never stop pursuing peace.

Please help by sharing this story with people who also imagine a more peaceful world.

With Sorrow,

Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO

 

Gaza and Israel: Which Side is Tanenbaum on?

As the Israel-Gaza violence escalates, I get more and more inquires about the organization I lead, asking where Tanenbaum stands and calling on us to speak out. In a number of ways, albeit not always directly, we have tried to say that we are torn apart by the violence on both sides. But that is not enough. It is time to try to clarify, though I know that many will not be satisfied because they want Tanenbaum and me to take a side.

We do take a side – it is the side of life. And the pursuit of a more peaceful world where differences – including religious differences – can thrive.

That means that Tanenbaum unequivocally condemns the use and abuse of religion in the furtherance of violence and geo-political aims.

It means that we denounce the extremists on both sides, who fuel war, horrific violence and hate.

It means that we oppose the verbal violence and rhetoric, the stereotypes and the “othering” that makes the human beings on both sides seem less human.

It means that Tanenbaum abhors war and violence, and that our hearts ache for the victims on both sides.

We are watching a human catastrophe for which words fail. Real people live in Israel and Gaza– people like you and me, who simply want to live their lives. Instead, they are being brutalized.

We see the Palestinian mother who watched her child die from a bomb. And the Palestinian father who is unable to keep his family safe. They are real, and I cannot imagine their agony. So too, is the Israeli mother who buries her son. And the Jewish child in Israel, who knows that she is alive today, only because Hitler did not finish what he started. And who also knows that the constant rockets mean that some of her neighbors are dedicated to making sure Hitler’s plan for her is finally realized.

These men, women and children – the real victims on both sides – are why Tanenbaum works to combat the abuse of religion and the violence. They are why we recommit ourselves to the pursuit of peace for all.

This is where we stand. On the side of life. The death and devastation must stop.

Who’s watching the spiral of hate?

Who’s watching the spiral of hate?

For those of us who care about acknowledging the humanity in each person- these are dark days.

The Middle East is in flames. Religious practices across Asia and Southeast Asia are being snuffed out – from Christians and Falun Gong practitioners in China to Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist majority Myanmar. Christians are desperately fleeing their homes in northern Iraq. We object to this senseless hatred wherever it is found. And now, we see virulent anti-Semitism in Europe that horrifies us.

If you’re watching, you can see the anti-Semitic anger cutting across Europe as protestors respond to the conflict in Israel and Gaza. While we would always support the right to peacefully protest and express one’s views on the tragedy that is the Middle East, we still have to ask – Why are so many of the current protests devolving into hate, violence and, specifically, targeting hatred toward Jewish people?

At Tanenbaum, we condemn the violence that we see all around us – in the Middle East, in Africa and Asia. And that includes the violence that is threatening European communities, leaving many Jews fearing for their future. Frighteningly, what we are seeing in France and Germany is the tip of an iceberg. Data shows that anti-Semitism is a worldwide illness that has risen over the last 25 years.

As we watch the news unfold, we must pay attention to the violence being perpetrated in the name of religion and as a form of hatred for individuals of particular traditions. In addition to headlines that make us all so sorrowful, we must also make it a point to witness the harm that is not reaching the headlines. And that includes attacks toward Jews just walking on the street to synagogues being set aflame.

As we watch the spiral of hate seemingly spin out of control, we at Tanenbaum recommit ourselves to promoting and practicing respect – for all people. It’s time to end the spiral of violence.  And we all have to be part of the solution.

In Friendship,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

We Are All Human Beings

Despite the rockets and the airstrikes wreaking havoc in Israel and Gaza, Peacemaker in Action Yehezkel Landau’s organization Open House held its annual Summer Peace Camp. Seventy Arab and Jewish children gathered at the peace education center in Ramle, Israel did what all children should do during the summer – they had fun together.

While the latest war in Gaza further complicates hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, a twelve-year-old camper relays her belief that there can one day be peace – by reminding us of what we too often forget in times of conflict:

“We are all human beings.”

To read more about this lesson in perseverance, click here for Open House’s July 2014 newsletter, Summer Peace Camp in the Midst of War.

Summer Peace Camp in the mixed Jewish-Arab village of Neve Shalom/Wahat as-Salaam.

Summer Peace Camp in the mixed Jewish-Arab village of Neve Shalom/Wahat as-Salaam.