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A Brave Testimony and a Surprising Turn of Events

“We are being slaughtered…”

Vian Dakhill, a Yazidi member of Iraq’s Parliament, to receive the Lantos Human Rights Prize | Safin Hamed, Getty/AFP

People across the world paused when Iraqi parliament member Vian Dakhill spoke those words during her haunting testimony in August 2014. As the only Yazidi then in Iraq’s Parliament, Dakhill plead tearfully to her fellow parliament members, imploring them to take immediate action and save the Yazidis from genocide and enslavement by ISIS.

Dakhill’s brave words were a catalyst for the rescue of Yazidis besieged on the Sinjar Mountain by ISIS. Unfortunately, her name again reached headlines as the U.S. immigration ban threatened to prevent her arrival in Washington D.C. to receive the Lantos Human Rights Prize on February 8th.

Fortunately Dakhill was permitted entry into the U.S. by the state department – but we find it ironic that a travel and immigration ban created to increase safety in the U.S., can prevent those who promote peace and justice from entering the country. Peace activists are our allies in the battle against violence and hate. We need to support them and recognize their ongoing efforts to address life and death issues happening now.

At Tanenbaum we know this firsthand. For almost 20 years, we have worked with religiously motivated men and women, like Dakhill, who risk their lives for peace in violent conflicts around the world. Every two years, through an international search process, we identify two such Peacemakers in Action.

The recognition we give these brave men and women should never be compromised.

Yet the U.S. travel ban will likely impair the work of many peacemakers and humanitarians. Already, we know that Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Marwani from Yemen, who we hope to bring to the U.S. later this year, may not be allowed to come.

There are ways to take action as it plays out in court: Read Against the Ban? 5 Things You Can Do Now and nominate a peacemaker for Tanenbaum’s 2017 Peacemaker in Action award.

In a time of great uncertainty, it’s critical that we continue all efforts to support those who work on the frontlines of global conflicts—and especially those working toward peace.


Top Image: Credit Vian Dakhill

Colombia’s Transition to Peace: Lessons and Inspiration from South Africa

Tanenbaum Peacemakers Ricardo Esquivia and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge

Tanenbaum Peacemakers Ricardo Esquivia and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge

“She [Nozizwe] could speak about both things — how to end the conflict and then what comes after that…to have someone from South Africa, who came from the grassroots, but who participated in the government and the truth commission, that was really key for us. So there was a lot of interest. Not only at the university at the conference, but in general society. There were interviews on television and the newspaper and with students. Her wisdom and all her knowledge helped illuminate this path along which the country can go. It was a very precise and opportune time for her to come. And her voice of experience really contributed a lot.”

These were the words of Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, Ricardo Esquivia, as he described his fellow Peacemaker from South Africa, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge’s visit to his country Colombia. An active member of the Peacemakers in Action Network (PIA Network), Ricardo hosted Nozizwe less than two months after the Peacemakers convened in New York for Tanenbaum’s sixth Working Retreat – and he noted that Nozizwe’s visit wouldn’t have been possible without Tanenbaum bringing them together.

Ricardo is the founder and director of Sembrandopaz, a nonprofit community organizationdedicated to facilitating the construction of a culture of peace building capacity among grassroots organizations in Colombia.” His wife and English translator, Lillian Hall, leads the organization’s international relations and project management coordination. In 2005, Ricardo received the Peacemakers in Action award for his lifelong work of bringing communities in conflict together to reconcile their differences and lay the groundwork for a peaceful future.

It was a critical time for Colombia. After almost fours years of brokered negotiations in Havana, Cuba, the nation was hopeful for a long-awaited peace and a more just and equitable future. Despite this, Colombia experienced a temporary setback. Just days after an historic peace accords signing between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — two sides at war for over fifty years —   millions of Colombians voted “yes” to either accept or “no” to reject the peace deal in a national referendum. By an incredibly narrow margin (50.2 % voting “no”; 49.8% voting “yes”), the people of Colombia, galvanized by former President Alvaro Uribe’s “no” campaign, rejected the peace deal.

In the days leading up to the referendum, Nozizwe visited Colombia and delivered the keynote speech at the 1st International Peace Studies Conference at the University of Cartagena. After spending her first few days in Cartagena for the conference, Nozizwe traveled with her hosts to Sembrandopaz’s offices in Sincelejo, to speak with individuals living in rural communities. Along the way, the Peacemakers visited an Afro community in Mampuján, which led to some special moments.

African Roots

“African Roots” Quilt. From Mampuján, Colombia

Sembrandopaz works closely with Mampuján, an afro community that was displaced in 2000 by Colombian paramilitaries. The community is still unable to return to its land. However, as the first community in Colombia to receive its reparations as victims of the armed conflict, they are “emblematic” of how justice is being realized in Colombia. In Mampuján, women address the community’s painful past by weaving applique quilts that visually narrate their experiences, including massacres and displacement, as well as their African roots. When the Afro-Colombian women received a visit from Nozizwe, a South African woman who had struggled with armed conflict and the difficult transition to peace, there was an immediate sense of unity. Wanting Nozizwe “to take back a piece of Mampuján” to South Africa, the women created an applique for one of Nozizwe’s dresses. In turn, Nozizwe taught the women a South African song in Zulu, “a special moment in which the Afro people of Colombia felt themselves transported to Mother Africa.

Tanenbaum Peacemaker Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge (left) in Colombia

Tanenbaum Peacemaker Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge (left) in Colombia

Everywhere Nozizwe went, she touched people with her message of peace. There was a heartfelt connection between Nozizwe and a young woman from Zambia, Lweendo, a Sembrandopaz volunteer, (during Apartheid, Zambia opened its borders to fleeing refugees from South Africa), as well as a young Afro-Colombian staff member from Colombia named Yesica. Ricardo described how Yesica and Lweendo shared similar dreams in their work toward peace and reconciliation – and so they were profoundly inspired by Nozizwe and her role in South Africa’s peace process.

In Sincelejo, Nozizwe met with women from five different communities Sembrandopaz works with — Alta Montaña, Libertad, Mampuján, Pichilín, and San Jacinto — as well as peasant leaders and a group of local peacemakers. Many of the women Nozizwe spoke with were of Afro-Colombian descent, “women who have lived [Colombia’s] armed conflict in different ways.” Nozizwe listened to the problems they face in their communities (e.g., access to education, employment and birth control). And Nozizwe responded by encouraging the women to use their talents and skills to create “a new society of peace.” Nozizwe spoke to the similar experience of women in South Africa, who were organized and worked together to effect change in their country. While working with others toward peace, Nozizwe described how she developed leadership skills, and she stressed to the importance of visualizing hopes for the future. Nozizwe also encouraged the women to network with other women in their communities.

Yesica Blanco of Sembrandopaz with, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge in Cartagena, Colombia

Yesica Blanco of Sembrandopaz (left) with Peacemaker Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge in Cartagena, Colombia

Nozizwe also engaged with broader civil society. During a moving encounter, she listened to an ex-combatant who had demobilized ten years ago and now works with an entire network of women ex-combatants. After a tearful embrace, Nozizwe called her “my sister.”

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge featured in article about peace.

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge featured in article about peace.

Thanks to fortuitous timing, Nozizwe’s impact also reached beyond the local community level. Just prior to Nozizwe’s to visit to Mampuján, Colombia’s First Lady, María Clemencia, had met with the same women who weave the storytelling applique quilts. (In fact, the women have been asked by the Colombian government’s high peace commissioner’s office to create an enormous quilt which will contain what the peace accords will look like in people’s lives, with all six points of the peace accords represented.) The First Lady was told about Nozizwe’s upcoming visit and this led to a formal request from the office of President Juan Manuel Santos office for Nozizwe to deliver a videotaped message of peace for the Colombian people. The importance of Nozizwe’s work in South Africa, and the hope her message carries, was apparent to all parts of society, including the President.

Despite the disappointing setback of the failed referendum, Ricardo and Sembrandopaz’s work continues. They have been practicing their vision of peace for twenty-five years in what Ricardo describes as a “post-conflict period.” Nozizwe’s visit to Colombia was short but her presence was undoubtedly felt by those she met.

“Secuestro” (Kidnapping). Quilt. From Mampuján, Colombia

For Ricardo, however, this was more than a visit from his fellow Peacemaker in Action, “it was an opening.” Nozizwe has already invited her new friends from Mampuján to come to South Africa to share their stories; and she encouraged one of the young Sembrandopaz staff members to participate in a leadership program at a local university in Johannesburg. The community members who had the joy of meeting and talking with Nozizwe reciprocated; they extended Nozizwe an open invitation to return to Colombia.

Two Peacemakers inspire hope for a peaceful Colombia – oceans apart – but near in their shared vision for peace. And their work together will continue.

By Michael McShane
Peacemakers in Action Network Coordinator, Tanenbaum

 

Peacemakers Condemn Another Horror

From left: Peacemakers Jacky Manuputty, Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Dr. Sakena Yacoobi; with Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer (KAICIID) and Peacemakers Dr. Yehezkel Landau, Pastor James Wuye and Azhar Hussain.

From left: Peacemakers Jacky Manuputty, Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Dr. Sakena Yacoobi; with Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer (KAICIID) and Peacemakers Dr. Yehezkel Landau, Pastor James Wuye and Azhar Hussain.

With a resounding and unified voice, we – a network of religiously-motivated Peacemakers from 20 armed conflict and post-conflict regions around the world – condemn today’s mass fatal incident in Nice, France.

Spanning different religions and beliefs, we know the suffering and devastation engendered by extremism. As Peacemakers, we stand together as a positive alternative to the forces of destruction.

We ask that you join us in responding to today’s event and all acts of violence – whether conducted in the name of religion, national interest or otherwise – with acts of kindness and building bridges across faiths. Together, we can counter forces of hate with the power of peace.

– Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Network 

José “Chencho” Alas, El Salvador

Imam Muhammad Ashafa, Nigeria

Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas, Colombia

Archbishop Abuna Elias Chacour, Israel/Palestine

Maria Ida (Deng) Giguiento, Philippines

Azhar Hussain, Pakistan

Dr. Ephraim Isaac, Ethiopia

Dishani Jayaweera, Sri Lanka

Hind Kabawat, Syria

Dr. Yehezkel Landau, Israel/Palestine

Reverend William Lowrey, Sudan

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, South Africa

Reverend Jacklevyn “Jacky” Frits Manuputty, Indonesia

Friar Ivo Markovic, Bosnia

Najeeba Sirhan, Israel/Palestine

Pastor James Wuye, Nigeria

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, Afghanistan

 

RSVP: Tanenbaum Peacemakers at the United Nations

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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.

Join us at Harvard Divinity – The Evolving Field of Religious Peacebuilding

Join us at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the RPP Colloquium: The Evolving Field of Religious Peacebuilding: Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action, Volume II

Click here to download the flyer!

When: Thursday, May 5, 2016, 6 – 8:30pm
Where: Sperry Room, Andover Hall, 45 Francis Ave. | Cambridge, MA
Sponsors: Religions and the Practice of Peace Initiative; the Religious Literacy Project; and the El-Hibri Foundation
ContactLiz Lee-Hood

Religions and the Practice of Peace Colloquium Dinner Series

Space is limited. RSVP is required.

Joyce S. Dubensky, Esq., CEO, Tanenbaum and Hind Kabawat, director of Interfaith Peacebuilding, George Mason University’s Center for World Religions Diplomacy & Conflict Resolution, and Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action will discuss Tanenbaum’s groundbreaking new book Peacemakers in Action: Profiles in Religious Peacebuilding Volume II.

As a religiously-motivated peacemaker working in Syria and surrounding areas, Hind Kabawat will share insights on the challenges and opportunities in religious peacebuilding. Dubensky will then explore the evolving field of religious peacebuilding and the individuals who make it their profession—including Tanenbaum Peacemakers, who so often work in violent conflicts and now collaborate through their Peacemakers Network for in-country interventions.

The event will be moderated by HDS Senior Lecturer on Religious Studies and Education Diane L. Moore, director of the Religious Literacy Project.

Co-sponsored by the Religious Literacy Project at Harvard Divinity School. With generous support from the El-Hibri Foundation.

Recommended Readings
Short List

  1. Hind Kabawat, Lingering Questions Surround Geneva III, article, The Huffington Post, online, Feb 12, 2016.
  2. Hind Kabawat, Riyadh Conference: What Makes It Different?, article, The Huffington Post, online, December 16, 2015.

Further Reading

  • Tanenbaum, “Underground Woman: Sakena Yacoobi and the Afghan Institute of Learning, Afghanistan.” In Peacemakers in Action: Profiles in Religion and Conflict Resolution. Edited by David Little. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007, 382-401.
  • David Little, “Religion, Violent Conflict, and Peacemaking.” InPeacemakers in Action: Profiles in Religion and Conflict Resolution. Edited by David Little. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007, 429-448.
  • Tanenbaum’s Combating Extremism resource that features Hind Kabawat:
  1. Testimony at U.S. House Committee Hearing on the Islamic State and Religious Minorities: a resource sheet about Hind Kabawat
  2. Hind Kabawat’s Full Testimony at the U.S. House Committee Hearing on the Islamic State and Religious Minorities

About this series: Launched by HDS Dean David N. Hempton in 2014, this monthly public series convenes a cross-disciplinary RPP Working Group of faculty, experts, graduate students, and alumni from across Harvard’s Schools and the local area to explore topics and cases in religions and the practice of peace. A diverse array of scholars, leaders, and religious peacebuilders are invited to present and engage with the RPP Working Group and general audience. A light dinner is served and a brief reception follows the program.

An Attack Close to Home

Dear Friends,

On Monday, our friend Michal Froman was attacked by a Palestinian teenager in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa. Thankfully, the pregnant Michal survived the stabbing, avoiding life-threatening injuries to herself and her unborn child.

The recent violent attacks in Israel/Palestine have been extremely troubling, further indicating that the ongoing struggle for Middle East peace remains woefully out-of-reach due to self-serving politics. But yesterday’s attack hit close to home for me, Tanenbaum and our Network of Peacemakers from around the world.

Ms. Froman is the daughter-in-law of the late Rabbi Menachem Froman, one of the first recipients of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action award. Rabbi Froman spent his life promoting reconciliation between Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents in the West Bank and Gaza. He envisioned a “humane state,” one in which all people — Jewish and Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian — treat each other with respect and dignity. Rabbi Froman’s work brought many people together, including political leaders, and he perceived the conflict as a tragedy of “two peoples loving the same land.” By seeking the common ground of having a shared faith in God, his work often transcended politics and motivated his own work on a deeply spiritual level. Rabbi Froman dedicated most of his life to promoting reconciliation between Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents in the West Bank and Gaza.

So it was no surprise to hear the reports of Michal Froman recognizing her attacker’s humanity when describing the 15-year-old to police and the media. Her father-in-law surely would be proud and so are we.

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Tanenbaum Peacemaker Dr. Ephraim Isaac speaks at the United Nation’s Church Center Chapel

Tanenbaum was honored to be a part of the United Nation’s seminal event, Faith for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), held at the Church Center Chapel. Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action Dr. Ephraim Isaac (Ethiopia) spoke eloquently to a diverse crowd; attendees from diverse religious backgrounds and beliefs gathered to discuss how religion can further the quest to eliminate poverty.

EphraimIsaac-UN-Chapel2015

TANENBAUM Peacemaker Dr. Ephraim Isaac (left) with Karin Achtelstetter – Credit: @KarinWaltraut

“I am here of behalf of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and as one of its Peacemakers in Action.

First let me congratulate you on your good efforts to deal with the critical question of poverty through the power of religion.

I used to be an incorrigible optimist. I am still, but a corrigible one. My remaining optimism is to see people like you here in this room that have the good will to do the good.

But, let us be realistic. In a greedy world where about 1% of the world’s population owns the wealth of the world and does not want to part with it, how do you propose to eliminate poverty in 15 years as you say? In a world where one American person would rather pay one million to travel to Africa to kill one elephant, or, where the King of Saudi Arabia would rent every room of the most expensive American hotel for several days and have a parade of over one hundred cars parked in a garage all of it decorated with red carpets…. especially at a time when thousands of Middle East refuges are seeking dire shelter, how do you convince the world to do what is right?

I am Jewish and yesterday, on Yom Kippur day, I chanted the Prophet Isaiah who said three thousand years ago (to paraphrase): You fast, you put ashes on yourselves, you exhibit your piety, and say to me “why do you not see our piety, how we humble ourselves with ashes on our heads?“  The Almighty responds, “Down with your piety, what I want is free the prisoners and those you oppress, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, help the poor…” If the great prophet has had so shouted about 3000 years ago, in other words, saying as we say today use your faith to help the poor, and that is what the Almighty G-d wants, and nothing has happened for 3000 years, how do you propose to abolish poverty in 15 years?

I know the World Bank has a lot of money, even if not as much as the 1% of the richest people in the world, and I know the religious people have all good intentions. Still how do we propose concretely to change the world?


Click here to learn more about Dr. Ephraim Isaac and Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action.

New Peacemakers in Action Announced!

al-Marwani_byKarimBenKhelifa-OeilPublic-forTIME

Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Marwani| Credit: Karim Ben Khelifa, Oeil Public for TIME

Around the world, extraordinary yet unknown women and men work tirelessly to build peace in conflict and post-conflict zones. Driven by faith, they dare to do the work that others are afraid to take on. At Tanenbaum, we are honored to recognize two of these inspiring peace activists, Yemen’s Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Marwani, a Sufi Muslim, and the Philippine’s Maria Ida “Deng” Giguiento, a Catholic, as our newest Peacemakers in Action.

Yemen’s Sheikh Al-Marwani negotiates peace between tribal leaders and works to counter calls for extremism. In the Philippines, Deng Giguiento is a teacher and has worked in the Mindanao conflict, creating alliances among conflicting Christian, Muslim and indigenous groups. Both Peacemakers have been threatened as a result of their work yet they persevere, deeply motivated by their faith and a vision of a peaceful future.

Maria Ida “Deng” Giguiento (Philippines)

Maria Ida “Deng” Giguiento (Philippines)

Sheikh Al-Marwani and Ms. Giguiento join 28 Peacemakers from 22 conflict zones. Click here to read their exciting bios – along with the inspiring bios of this year’s finalists.

Peacemakers in Action Network: A Model for the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention

Photo Credit: KAICIID

Photo Credit: KAICIID

Last month, the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention co-convened the “Forum on the Role of Religious Leaders in Preventing Incitement that could Lead to Atrocity Crimes.” The major outcome from the forum was a “Plan of Action for the Prevention of Incitement to Violence that could lead to Atrocity Crimes.” The Plan of Action is a draft document that will be revised and finalized during five regional meetings set to take place during the next year; and a “Declaration will be adopted at a plenary meeting of religious leaders” in 2016.

Eight major areas of consideration were highlighted in the plan – many of which are already being done by Tanenbaum and our Peacemakers: 1) “Monitoring” incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes; 2) Developing, speaking out, and circulating “alternative” messages to counter incitement and hate speech (Tanenbaum Peacemakers do this!); 3) Engaging in dialogue with the speakers and the potential audience; 4) Developing and revising education, curricula and capacity building (Tanenbaum’s education program does this!); 5) Engaging in or strengthening inter-religious and intra-religious dialogue and activities; 6) Engaging in dialogue on grievances; 7) Strengthening clarity of thinking and of message (Tanenbaum is a thought leader on the issues that fuel extremism); and 8) Engaging with political leaders (Tanenbaum Peacemakers often do this).

The Plan of Action also referenced several additional focal points , including the “mapping and networking of religious leaders who actively work to prevent or counter incitement that can lead to atrocity crimes around the world.” At Tanenbaum, we believe the UN and its partners have a model to reference and further explore in Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action Network.  Why not start where successes are happening – by learning about the religious Peacemakers already in action and having a powerful impact as they work together around the globe?

For well over fifteen years, Tanenbaum has identified religiously motivated Peacemakers working in areas of armed conflict, whose lives and liberty have been at risk in pursuit of peace. Thirty courageous Peacemakers with diverse experiences of conflict from 23 countries have been recognized for their peace work with the Peacemakers in Action Award. Convened every two years to share knowledge, successful practices and the common bond of their faith-driven work, the Peacemakers formalized their Network in 2011.

As a Network facilitated by Tanenbaum, the Peacemakers communicate regularly and even travel to each other’s homelands to work together to help build peace. Later this month, two Nigerian Peacemakers, Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa, will join their fellow Peacemaker, Dishani Jayaweera, in Sri Lanka to train religious leaders from different faith traditions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity). Already well-known in Sri Lanka for their work in Kaduna state, Pastor James and Imam Ashafa will serve as inspirations, models and experienced Peacemakers to Sri Lankans hoping to bring lasting peace to a country still recovering from a decades-old conflict.

As the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention smartly prepares to utilize a resource – religious leaders/actors – sorely underutilized in creating the conditions for a more peaceful world, Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, should strongly consider the Peacemakers in Action Network as a model for its efforts to map and network religious actors actively working to prevent or counter incitement that can lead to atrocity crimes around the world.

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