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Letter to Congress: RESIST Budget Cuts to Foreign Assistance

Dear Member of Congress,

    Click to view and download            Tanenbaum’s Letter to Congress

As a constituent from New York and as the CEO of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, I write with deep concern about the proposed budget cuts to foreign assistance, especially as it relates to global conflict. At Tanenbaum, we identify and work with men and women driven by their religious beliefs and ready to risk their lives to end conflict around the world. These include deadly conflict, escalating violence and extremism that, over the past 15 years, has reduced world GDP by 13.3%.

U.S. foreign assistance is a vital tool for reducing violent conflict and the threat it poses to Americans. The Institute of Economics and Peace estimates that for every dollar we invest in peacebuilding now, the cost of violent conflict would be reduced by $16 over time. However, despite its proven success, there is shockingly little investment in peacebuilding. Just 2% of U.S. spending goes to peacebuilding and peacekeeping activities (around one percent of the $739 billion cost of conflict in 2015).

Despite minimal resources, peacebuilding practitioners offer a wide range of successful programs that reduce violence by addressing the root causes of conflict. One example is Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action Network, which reduces violence in many countries, including Afghanistan, Nigeria and Colombia. Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers and so many other peacebuilders offer creative and impactful approaches to: land disputes, religious and ethnic conflicts, gang violence, gender-based violence, and extremism.

We need to invest in the preventive power of peacebuilding. The reductions for peacebuilding in the proposed budget will make us less safe while increasing the corollary military costs. I therefore urge you to resist draconian cuts to foreign assistance that will destroy our ability to prevent and reduce violence globally.

I look forward to hearing from you on how you are working to save lives and money through peacebuilding in the FY 2017 and FY 2018 budget processes.

Thank you,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

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

Meet the Peacemakers

The week from July 9th to the 16th was a special one for Tanenbaum. We had the rare opportunity to visit with the diverse and passionate women and men, who are dedicating their lives to promoting peace, religious understanding, and a safer world – Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action. This opportunity arises only once every few years, when we convene the Peacemakers in Action Network for a Working Retreat, where they have the chance to network in person and learn from each other, as well as from other experts in the field. This year, we were excited to have 18 Peacemakers with us, from global conflicts including Syria, Colombia, Nigeria, the Philippines and Israel.

In the middle of the Retreat, we spent a day in Manhattan. While there, some Peacemakers presented their work at the United Nations, while others discussed extremism, women’s issues arising in their work, and what the Peacemakers in Action Network has done for them on The Brian Lehrer Show. They also had a little “me” time for shopping, taking in The Met, and eating New York Pizza!

That evening, Tanenbaum leaders and friends met the Peacemakers. It was a moment to hear stories directly from the Peacemakers, as they shared their own experiences in battling extremism, conducting post-trauma counseling of those released from terrorists, and using music to heal post-conflict communities. Our Board Chair, Justin Foa, graciously opened his home for the event, which was sponsored by GHR, KAICIID, the Greek Archdiocese of North America, and Winebow. Without these wonderful partnerships, none of this – the Working Retreat or the Meet the Peacemakers evening – would have been possible.

Today, we so often feel helpless – and hopeless – as we face random acts of terror, hatred and exclusion. Tanenbaum Peacemakers remind us that there is reason to hope. To those of you who were able to be with us at the UN, who listened to the Brian Lehrer show or who joined us to meet the Peacemakers, we thank you. And to those of you who could not be with us, we hope to see you soon. For now, please enjoy a few pictures from our evening together with the Peacemakers in Action.

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.

Combating Extremism: Reasons for Hope in Dark Days

Dear Friends,

People often ask me what can be done to prevent and stop violent extremism.

In our recent survey, people from across the world shared their answer. Overwhelmingly, they believe that education is the antidote to fear and prejudice. The message was loud and clear: religious understanding is essential to ending acts of hatred, large and small.

With that in mind and in honor of Women’s History Month, I’m excited to bring you Tanenbaum’s March Combating Extremism materials, which highlight women who are making history – today!

  • Women Who Pursue Peace and Justice: A resource sheet highlighting the efforts of religiously driven women in armed conflicts and women-centered programs that counter violent extremism (CVE).

As you’ll see, we focus on women peace activists who are religiously motivated. They are unsung heroines who work to counter and prevent extremism. While women across the globe are doing this urgent and admirable work, this resource highlights a few who have been recognized by Tanenbaum, and also calls attention to other wonderful programs that support women working for peace.

Read, download, and share this month’s resource sheet! Challenge yourself and others to understand the significant accomplishments of these women. And then follow in their footsteps (safely!). Even small acts in your hometown can have big impacts.

Let’s make history – each of us in our own way.

Joyce S. Dubensky,
CEO

P.S. Momentum is increasing – but we need your signature! Sign and share our Peacemaker’s Statement Against Extremism on Change.org

World Peace Wednesdays: Meet Nozizwe

For our first “World Peace Wednesday" blog entry, we’d like to introduce you to Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, who shares how the end of South Africa's apartheid regime gave her hope that peace is possible through interreligious understanding.

Nozizwe, a South African pacifist, anchored by her Quaker faith, has dedicated her life to peacefully seeking social justice.

Nozizwe first became politically active in the 1970s, amidst the oppressive conditions of South Africa's apartheid regime. Nozizwe was jailed three times for her affiliation with the African National Congress, the last time spending one year in solitary confinement without a trial.

After her release, Nozizwe went on to mediate intra-black conflicts outside of Durban, and helped draft an historic, post-apartheid constitution for South Africa in 1991. Until August 2007, Nozizwe served as South Africa's Deputy Minister of Health, leading an effort to ensure that AIDS patients receive the best possible treatment.

Learn more about Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge's role as a peacemaker.

Follow us on Twitter (#WorldPeaceWednesdays)

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This video was made possible by grants from Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Henry Luce Foundation. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of Tanenbaum. Tanenbaum's Peacemakers in Action program is also supported by the Leir Charitable Foundations.