Tanenbaum Peacemaker Receives International Peace Prize

Tanenbaum Peacemaker Receives International Peace Prize

A Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action is back in the news! Ricardo Esquivia’s organization, Sembrandopaz, which is based in the town of Sincelejo, in Sucre, Colombia, was just awarded the 2014 World Vision International Peace Prize.

The award is given out annually by World Vision International to acknowledge courageous “individuals or organizations that excel in peacebuilding or peacemaking”. There were six finalists from India, Pakistan, Yemen, Canada, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Colombia vying for this year’s award. In the end, it was Ricardo’s organization that was selected for their “dedication to an inclusive, holistic and just peace,” becoming the first Latin American foundation to receive the World Vision International Peace Prize.

Ricardo is known for his fearless work in building national and regional dialogues with legal and illegal armed groups. Sembrandopaz supports sustainable development initiatives in Colombia’s Caribbean region. Additionally, Sembrandopaz works with grassroots organizations to improve their capacity for facilitating peace at the community level.

Based on the traditions of the Mennonite Church, Sembrandopaz is devoted to the transformation of communities and their peaceful and sustainable development.

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


“The Vicar of Baghdad”: Peacebuilding in Iraq’s Red Zone

On Thursday, July 3rd, Peacemaker Rev. Canon Andrew White spoke with fellow Peacemakers in Action during a monthly call. When asked about his safety, White’s voice reverberated through the technological static: “Peacemaking is not about making peace in comfortable, safe places.”

That is how Rev. Canon Andrew White lives his life: beyond comfort zones and within the lawless and chaotic Red Zone in Central Baghdad, Iraq.

Lovingly dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad,” Andrew is a steadfast leader in Baghdad not only for his church, Saint George’s Episcopal Anglican Church, but also as head of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, a relief and reconciliation program that supports the masses (Christians and Muslims alike) and coordinates reconciliatory efforts between Sunni and Shia leaders.

Andrew’s daily efforts, logistical challenges and reality are documented in “The Vicar of Baghdad”, a new three-part Vice Media special. Vice Media, known for being outspoken and bold in their news coverage, intimately portrays Andrew’s work on the ground. The candid look into Andrew’s daily life begins in a car; the camera shakes while lights flash red down a dimly lit street. From the passenger seat, Andrew narrates the situation, “It’s dangerous just sitting here.” These words color his actions, whether he is aware of it or not. He persists with his mission, guided by his peacebuilding practice and faith. Despite multiple kidnappings and death threats he does not sit still. Andrew is constantly on the move, visiting his parishioners and standing in solidarity with those in Iraq.

The Vicar of Baghdad has been filmed in 12-17 minute long installments. Each video is a window into the poverty, marginalization and hardships experienced in Iraq. With a backdrop of dry wit and humor, Andrew’s innate exuberance and the joy of his people are not fully dampened by their situations. The harsh environment does not mar his faithfulness, as he calmly proclaims, “My faith is everything.”

In recent days, the militant group the Islamic State, or IS, formerly called ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), continues to encroach upon Baghdad. According to Andrew, the country’s infrastructure is failing and people are dying daily. Iraq’s problems deepen with their presence and ongoing sectarian violence. Currently, Andrew and his people are surrounded by constant gunfights and dwindling outside communication. Unwavering, he continues to fight for peace and solidarity in Iraq.

Vice Media – The Vicar of Baghdad      

Part 1:


Part 2:

Part 3:

Tanenbaum Peacemaker awarded Royal Order of Polar Star

Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, Ephraim Isaac of Ethiopia, was admitted to the Royal Order of the Polar Star on Thursday, December 5th. A ceremony was held at the Swedish House in Washington DC and was presided over by the Ambassador of Sweden, H.E. Bjorn Lyrvall. The award dates back to 1748 and is conferred to Swedish and foreign nationals for “civic merits, for devotion to duty, for science, literacy, learned and useful works and for new beneficial institutions.”

This is an impressive accomplishment and Tanenbaum and the Peacemakers in Action Network are thrilled to see Ephraim and his work for peace receiving the recognition it deserves.

Remembering Peacemaker in Action, Father Alec Reid – Northern Ireland

After decades of working for peace between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland, Peacemaker in Action Alec Reid died on Friday, November 22, 2013 in a Dublin hospital.

Father Alec Reid was an influential mediator between Sinn Fein (the I.R.A.’s political arm) and leaders in the Irish and British governments during “The Troubles” – a period of violent struggle that lasted three decades in Northern Ireland. Though his work for peace was largely done behind the scenes, his role in the 1998 peace accords was well known by all. Signed on Good Friday in April 1998, the Belfast Agreement helped create a power sharing deal between the Democratic Unionist Party (mostly pro-British Protestants) and Sinn Fein (mostly pro-Irish Roman Catholics) and ended decades of violence.

In a statement last week, Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, said that “there would not be a peace process at this time without [Father Reid’s] diligent doggedness and his refusal to give up.”  In addition to Father Reid’s work in Northern Ireland, he spent years working to build peace between Spanish and Basque communities.

A funeral for Father Alec Reid was held on Wednesday, November 27 in Belfast. During the ceremony, Fr. Kelleher, a close and trusted associate, said that “everything Father Reid learned about peacemaking was gleaned from the streets of Belfast.” There, he learned that “the dignity of the human person is the supreme moral value in all human affairs.”

Father Alec Reid was 82.

A scary week of hate and violence: Top 5 News Stories

Scores Are Killed by Suicide Bomb Attack at Historic Church in Pakistan  Kenya: 'If You Were Muslim They Let You Go Sikh Columbia Professor, Attacked In Possible Hate Crime Navy Yard shooting puts Buddhism in spotlight: Column Virginia GOP Official Refuses to Apologize for Anti-Semitic Pope Joke

Last week's top news, from our perspective:

Scores Are Killed by Suicide Bomb Attack at Historic Church in Pakistan

A suicide attack on a historic church in northwestern Pakistan killed at least 78 people on Sunday in one of the deadliest attacks on the Christian minority in Pakistan in years.

The attack occurred as worshipers left All Saints Church in the old quarter of the regional capital, Peshawar, after a service on Sunday morning. Up to 600 people had attended and were leaving to receive free food being distributed on the lawn outside when two explosions ripped through the crowd.

Kenya: 'If You Were Muslim They Let You Go

Witnesses to the attack on a shopping centre in Nairobi say gunmen executed anyone who could not recite an Islamic prayer.

Saadia Ahmed, a radio presenter from Nairobi, said: "We heard three explosions outside the building then all of a sudden we heard gunshots and people ducked down.

"A lot of people were shot while they were trying to escape.

"I saw one of the gunmen with an AK-47 and later two of them were talking and it sounded like Somali or Arabic."

Ms Ahmed said the attackers released people who were able to prove they could speak Arabic. The current death toll stands at 68.

Sikh Columbia Professor, Attacked In Possible Hate Crime

A Columbia University professor was assaulted on Saturday night in what police say is being investigated as a hate crime.

According to a New York Police Department source, Dr. Prabhjot Singh, who is Sikh and wears a turban and a beard, was attacked at 8:15 p.m. while walking along 110th Street near Lennox Avenue in upper Manhattan. An unknown suspect or suspects shouted anti-Muslim statements, knocked the professor down and punched him numerous times in the face.

Navy Yard shooting puts Buddhism in spotlight: Column

Aaron Alexis allegedly shot and killed 12 people in cold blood before being killed himself by police on Monday at the Washington Navy Yard.

Alexis was a government contractor and former Navy reservist. But was also a Buddhist who, according to news reports, chanted frequently, wore an amulet of the Buddha around his neck, and regularly attended services at Wat Busayadhammavanaram Meditation Center in Fort Worth, Texas. How are we to make sense of this anomaly — a follower of the Buddha who shoots to kill?

Our stereotype of Buddhists as peacemakers is not unfounded. The Buddha was by all accounts a man of peace, and ahimsa (non-violence) has long been a Buddhist value.

Virginia GOP Official Refuses to Apologize for Anti-Semitic Pope Joke

A GOP official in Virginia refused to apologize for an anti-Semitic joke, although the party’s candidate for governor called it inappropriate.

“I did not tell an anti-Semitic joke,” John Whitbeck, the Republican Party’s chairman in its 10th Congressional District, in northern Virginia, told the Free Beacon on Wednesday. “I told a joke I heard from a priest at a church service.”

Whitbeck, introducing Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general and GOP candidate for governor, at a rally on Tuesday related a joke with a punchline that had Jews seeking payment from the Vatican for the Last Supper.

A weekend of staggering bloodshed

Today is a scary day to read the news. Over the weekend, premeditated attacks on a shopping mall in Kenya and a church in Pakistan killed 68 and 78 people, respectively. Both attacks were carried out by radical Islamist groups that targeted non-Muslims.

In New York City, an American Sikh man was assaulted by a group of young men. While they beat him, they yelled “Get him!” as well as “Osama” and “terrorist.” His teeth were dislodged and he sustained multiple fractures throughout his body.

Tanenbaum strongly condemns each of these extremely hateful acts, acts that destroy our shared humanity. We imagine a world that respects difference and where every person is safe. As Dr. Prabhjot Singh, the victim in the New York City attack, said, “I want it so that my 1-year-old has nothing to fear…”

Today, we send our thoughts and prayers to all those who are dealing with devastating pain. We will continue to combat religious prejudice in an effort to eliminate these horrors.

(Photo credit: Mohammad Sajjad/Associated Press)


Last week, Tanenbaum received troubling information that Peacemaker in Action, Ricardo Esquivia, is facing severe political persecution in Colombia. Recently, a key associate of Ricardo’s was arrested on false charges and several others received written death threats. There is also evidence that the military is building a case against Ricardo, accusing him of being a guerrilla allied with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Though there are many details that still need to be confirmed, we believe the threats against Ricardo and the members of his peace movement are real and that their lives and safety are at risk.

Ricardo received Tanenbaum’s Peacemaker in Action award in 2005 for his work as a driver of peace and community development in Colombia. For over 40 years, Ricardo has helped conflict-affected communities peacefully reconcile differences and build a better future. Despite his work for peace (or because of it), Ricardo has been repeatedly threatened, baselessly, with detention or legal action. It is time to end this harassment of a proven servant of the Colombian people.

This is a situation where the Peacemakers in Action Network and YOU can have a huge impact. The Peacemakers prepared a Statement of Solidarity to show their support and encourage the public to act. By calling on the leaders identified within the Statement, YOU can help ensure the safety and freedom of Ricardo and the members of his peace movement.

The Peacemakers in Action Network stands as a voice for peace and justice. Today, they call on YOU to ensure the Colombian authorities to heed our collective demands and end political persecution of Ricardo Esquivia and his associates in Montes de Maria – immediately!


What you can do:


Follow the steps outlined in the Peacemakers in Action Network Statement of Solidarity


Sign this petition

Report from Tanenbaum’s Syrian Peacemaker – Hind Kabawat

Before 3:00AM on Wednesday, August 21, the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta was the target of a vicious attack that left hundreds dead in their homes.

First responders and medical staff treating victims described symptoms that suggest chemical weapons were used during the attack. Though unconfirmed, initial reports by Syrian opposition forces in the area state that around 1,200 – nearly all civilians – were killed on Wednesday and this number is expected to rise in the coming hours.

If confirmed, Wednesday’s incident would be one of the largest chemical weapon attacks targeting a civilian area in recent memory. An indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction, chemical weapons target anyone within its range – including women and children.

Earlier today, Tanenbaum’s Syrian Peacemaker in Action Hind Kabawat sent forwarded the following statement about what she hears is happening:

To some people it’s a beautiful sunny day, but for children and residents of Eastern Ghouta it’s not, they went to sleep but never woke up. Overnight, forces committed one of the biggest massacre since the Syrian Revolution started. They shelled the region with chemical weapons at 2:12 A.M with four missiles leaving behind NOT LESS than 1188 dead so far, and without a doubt the number is going to increase in the upcoming hours.

Most of the casualties were children and women, all of whom passed away while they were sleeping. There are a lot of civilians who are still in their houses who never had the chance to leave the area; they are probably dead by now. In addition to that, odors are spreading in some neighborhoods of Damascus and Ghouta. Doctors believe that Sarin gas was used in the attack. We call for The International Investigation team to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Damascus and to go to the inflicted regions now!

The initial casualty report is 1188 dead:

Seqba: 100 dead

Kafr-Batna: 100 dead

Douma: 150 dead

Hamouriyi: 300 dead

Erbeen: 30 children, 16 women, 17 men, total of 63 dead

Zamalk: 400 dead

Al Marj: still not known

Ein Terma: 75 dead

If you agree that the violence in Syria must end, please read this Peacemakers in Action Network Statement and spread it throughout your personal and professional networks.  


More information about Wednesday’s attack can be found here:


Growing Religious Intolerance in Pakistan: Top 5 News Stories

Religions asking if test-tube burgers allow them to keep the faith •  Indonesian president worried by growing religious intolerance • Lutherans elect Elizabeth Eaton first female presiding bishop of ELCA • Hindu groups in US protest religious discrimination in Pakistan • Man held after Buddhists use Malaysia Muslim prayer room​

Last week's top stories, from our perspective:

Religions asking if test-tube burgers allow them to keep the faith
A biologist from Maastricht University presented meet grown in-vitro from the stem cells of a cow. Is it possible that religious authorities will give this new food their approval? If so, what does this mean for halal and kosher meats? Abdul Qahir Qamar of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy in Saudi Arabia has said that as long as the cells are not banned under the halal laws, in-vitro meat "will not be considered meat from live animals, but will be cultured meat."

Indonesian president worried by growing religious intolerance
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 260 violent incidents occured against religious minorities in Indonesia. The country's president, Susilo Bamban Yudhoyono, has said that he is working to curtail corruption but others in the country say otherwise. 

Lutherans elect Elizabeth Eaton first female presiding bishop of ELCA
Rev. Elizabeth Eaton is the first female presiding biship of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is the United States' largest Lutheran body — with more than 4 million members in 9,638 congregrations.

Hindu groups in US protest religious discrimination in Pakistan
A group of US-based Hindu organizations gathered in Manhattan near Pakistan's consulate to voice concern against religious discrimination of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and others in Pakistan. Narain Kataria, organizer of the rally said "This is nothing but religious apartheid for the entire world to see. Almost all the Hindus and Sikhs have been religiously cleansed from Pakistan with the blessings of the government." 

Man held after Buddhists use Malaysia Muslim prayer room
RA resort owner in Malyasia faces up to two years in jail for allowing a Buddhist to use the resort's Muslim prayer room because no other hall was available. The owner is now being investigated for "defliing a place of worship with intent to insult the religion."