Thursday, October 27, 2011

A 19 yr old winner: Democracy Essay Contest

Note from blogger: my husband and I once lived in Nigeria where we first observed Muslims and Christians living side by side in a small, beautiful, rural village and experienced warm acceptance from all. Peace, goodwill and healthy progress to Nigeria and to the youths everywhere working and praying for a better world.



From Ugreen Foundation Nigeria in honour of the United Nations International Year of Youths

‘As Nigeria is faced with the challenges of terrorism and post-electoral violence; what can young people do to help consolidate our democracy?’

Bio Data of Winner:

Name: Onyinyechi Mbam
Sex: Female
Nationality: Nigeria

Onyinyechi Mbam is a 19 year old female medical student, studying at the Ebonyi State University Medical College. She is a young author of a book, ‘Angel in Darkness.’


The quest to build a society where peace, unity and justice are its pillars, devoid of acrimony and rancor, as well as hospitable environment that has learnt to care for its citizenry has posed challenges to Nations across the globe.

Nigeria is a democratic country in West Africa, with a population of over 140 million people (2006 census). Since Nigeria was officially declared an independent state and gained freedom from their British colonial masters on 1st October 1960, three major ethnic and religious groups has remained unified despite the challenges of civil war that lasted for three years (1967 – 1970), ethnic and religious crisis, that has ravaged the nation since independence till date and recently; terrorism and post electoral violence – the later having gained ground since 1999 when Nigerian transited to democratic governance.

It is a truism that no nation on earth can achieve the dreams of her founding fathers if characterized by electoral violence, crisis and terrorism. Terrorism is a devastating trend that our contemporary world has had to grapple with in recent times. In this contest, it is defined as the premeditated use of violence by an individual or group to cause fear, destruction or death, especially against unarmed targets, properties or infrastructure within a state, with the intentions to compel those in authority to respond to the demands and expectations of individuals or group behind such violent act. The devastating effects of terrorism have been witnessed in the United States of America, especially in September 11, 2001. In Kenya, the United States Embassy was targeted in August, 7 1998, and most recently Nigeria has suffered the effects severally and repeatedly.

From all the attacks recorded all around the world, the expectations can be deduced to be for a change of status quo in terms of the political, economic, ideological, religious and social order within the affected state or for a change in the actions or policies of the affected state in relation to its interaction with other groups.

Post electoral violence is the expression of hostility and rage through physical force after the elections have been conducted especially when groups are dissatisfied with the outcomes of the elections. The acts of terrorism and post electoral violence have given Nigerians deadly blows. So many factors interplay in different ways to display Nigeria as subject to terrorism and post electoral violence. This include among others, the failure of governance to meet up with the demands and needs of the people, high unemployment rate, poor security system, ethnic and religious crisis, widespread poverty and porosity of Nigeria’s land and maritime borders.

In Nigeria, governance failure is one of the main factors implicated in the rising incidence of violence and terrorism. It is indexed by the manifest incapacity of public institutions to deliver critical access to the basic services important to a healthy, satisfying and productive life in a society. This contributes to the emergence of large number of frustrated population, especially young people. The key challenge here is not the lack of sufficient public resources; rather it is the problem of widespread corruption especially in the public sector which compounds other governance and development deficits bedeviling Nigeria. The idea held by most politicians that whoever holds the allocation of wealth holds all creates an environment for intense corruption and rigging of electoral process as parties go extremes to squeeze their candidates into the corridors of power.

Furthermore, large number of youths without any means of livelihood compounds the environment of insecurity in Nigeria, which feeds into the overall vulnerability question. Nigerian youthful population is estimated to be close to 70 or 80 million – about 55 to 60 percent of the entire population (2006 census), yet a significant segment of the youth population remains unemployed, underemployed or unemployable. Official statistics show that more than 80 percent of the youth are unemployed while about 10 percent are underemployed. The estimated 10 percent in employment are inundated with demands from immediate and extended family members as they too might not be employed or not in a position to earn as much to carter for their family’s need. Consequently, the growing frustration and disillusion that accompany long term unemployment and poverty underline their gravitation to crimes, making them more vulnerable to recruitment by criminal cartels, extremists, political thugs and terrorist groups.

Moreover, the level of insecurity, characterized by the rapid eruption and frequency of violence especially during and after elections, is further heightened by the lack of swift and early response by the state and its security actors. In many part of Nigeria, response of public authorities is habitually too late and unfruitful; hence their inability to respond at all becomes more significant with the introduction of bombs and explosives to spread terror, destroying lives and properties as is the case in majority of the Northern states of Nigeria. In many countries, agencies are set up to detect terror plans and prevent them, but in Nigeria no agency exists at all. After all the attacks, none has been established.

Moreso, Ethnic and religious conflicts are not left out among the factors that ginger terrorism and post electoral violence in Nigeria. There are three major Ethnic groups recognized in the federation; Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba with Christianity, Islam and Traditional religions. The Christians and the Islams have been at the forefront of religious conflicts for uncountable years. Presently, the Boko Haram sect with anti-west ideologies that holds western civilization to sinful while propagating the Islamic culture has launched several attacks on the police stations and other public facilities accounting to thousands of deaths. In addition, the method of Pentecostal Christians’ preaching involves extensive rebuff of the Quran and condemnation of specific Muslim practices which has exacerbated the religious conflicts. For instance, in 1991 rioting Muslims killed more than 200 Southern Christians and burnt over twenty churches in Kano state when Reinhard Bonnke, a German revivalist was invited by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to hold a crusade in Kano state.

It is not to be forgotten that a hungry man is an angry man, the environment of widespread poverty in turn contributes to the escalating crime rate in Nigeria. Nigerian streets are full of children begging for arms. They follow anybody that might just feed them even for once, end up being trained to become suicide bombers and assassins, etc, and grow up with wrong unpatriotic mentality against the country.

In addition, the porosity of Nigeria’s land borders, especially in the Northern parts has security implications given the activities of transnational Jihadists such as the al Qaeda in the land of Islamic Maghreb operating in the Sahel region of West Africa. Nigeria and Senegal are situated in this region and are known to have porous land and maritime borders. It is estimated that Nigeria hosts over 70 percent of about 8 million illegal weapons. In a situation where illegal weapons circulate in an environment of worsening poverty and porous borders, it may not be a surprise at the intensity of terrorism and violence.

Despite all these, young people are making efforts to consolidate Nigeria’s democracy. Several youth organizations have been conducting and are still holding seminar programs in democracy and good governance to restructure the minds and attitudes of youths. However, more is yet to be done, as we young people are susceptible to shackles of terrorism and post electoral violence.

To engage more efforts in consolidating democracy in Nigeria, dialogue must be embraced. Young people should come together to discuss other peaceful means of solving problems other than violence. For instance when through dialogs every young person in Nigeria gets to know that serving as a political thug or participating in acts that endanger Nigeria does not count and that his or her vote can change Nigeria, then there would be no need to achieve the right political situation with violence.

Nevertheless, the problem of unemployment can be solved without dependence on the government. If young people embrace education, shun idleness and imbibe creativity, there are thousands of opportunities they can explore to earn a living from Nigeria’s vast natural resources.

Security is one of the basic pre-occupations of any individual community, organizations and government. The idea of security presupposes a concern with what is the source of danger, ‘who’ or ‘what’ is to be protected from the danger and what ‘means’ are available for addressing the danger. Thus security is too important a value to be left alone to a nation’s security agencies to guarantee. Security providers cannot work alone they need the linking of civil societies, security providers and community leaders for early warning and response to conflict. Young people all across Nigerian should maintain a habit of security awareness, form strong lines of communications and information sharing on possible tension areas, conflict triggers in communities and opportunities for conflict resolution, especially with the use of the new social media that have brought about democracy transitions in the Arab World. These will contribute a lot to reducing the prevalence of violence and terrorism in the country.

Section 10 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that the Federation shall not adopt any religion as state religion. In other words, right to practice one’s religion must not amount to violation of the right of others to practice theirs and their right to life. Religious and ethnic tolerance, co-operation and peace will put a stop to ethnic and religious conflict and it must begin with young people.

In Conclusion, as outlined ab initio, terrorism and post-electoral violence are caused largely by wide spread poverty, ignorance, ethnic and religious intolerance and unemployment but can be reduced by capacity building. Young people in Nigeria should not fold hands but should all engage in capacity building activities such as seminars, skill acquisition, and value re-orientation programs and attach much importance to educational trainings. In the long term, Nigeria must address the historical and structural causes of these conflicts. Unless this assessment is done, violence, loss of human lives and properties will be a constant re-occurrence. All hands should come on desk, especially the young people to consolidating Nigeria’s democracy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

NEEDED: A Stretcher from Grace (Rumi)


Zero Circle

Be helpless and dumbfounded,
unable to say yes or no.

Then a stretcher will come
from grace to gather us up.

We are too dulleyed to see the beauty.
If we say "Yes we can," we'll be lying.

If we say "No, we don't see it,"
that "No" will behead us
and shut tight our window into spirit.

So let us not be sure of anything,
beside ourselves, and only that, so
miraculous beings come running to help.

Crazed, lying in a zero-circle, mute,
we will be saying finally,
with tremendous eloquence, "Lead us."

When we've totally surrendered to that beauty,
we'll become a mighty kindness.

version by Coleman Barks


See some helpful responses includes mention of a small rich volume of poetry with commentary by Housden: "Ten Poems to Change Your Life" here

* Image is "Starry Night over the Brooklyn Bridge"
by Nathan Mellot

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Robi Damelin on the 1,000 Palestinian Prisoners...

“The first words that came out of my mouth were 'do not take revenge in the name of my son'” To read her story of forgiveness GO here

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


"...There is no revenge for a lost loved one. I too would have released the whole world in order to get David back.

I belong to a group of Palestinians and Israelis called the Parents Circle - Families Forum. We are more than 600 families who have lost an immediate family member to the conflict. Our long-term vision is to create a framework for reconciliation process that would be an integral part of future political agreements.

When it was first disclosed that David’s killer may be walking free I received phone calls from my Palestinian friends, also members of the Parents Circle - Families Forum. They had listened carefully to the names of the prisoners released and when they had heard that David’s killer might be amongst them, they were in great turmoil. They wanted to come to my house, some from the West Bank, to be with me. They said they were proud of my reaction and that they also understood how painful it is.

I think of the pain of the Palestinian mothers in our group. Their pain is the same as mine and the tears are the same colour. Some of the men in our group had served jail sentences and today they are tireless campaigners for reconciliation..."

Read the entire story here:

Former Palestinian prisoners, future peacemakers? By Robi Damelin

Tel Aviv - The whole country is talking about it: over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom were involved in suicide attacks in which lives were lost, will be freed in exchange for the kidnapped Israeli solider Gilad Shalit who had been held in captivity in Gaza for over five years. Today the prisoner's swap dominated world news when Gilad was freed at the same time as 477 of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. While it’s clear that everyone in Israel is happy to see Gilad reunited with his family, among bereaved parents there are some who feel that those responsible for the death of their loved ones should never walk free.

I lost my son David in a shooting incident in the West Bank in 2002. Initially, I was told that my son’s killer would be released this week. Now it is not clear whether or not has or will be freed as part of the deal. But when it seemed likely that he would, I took some time out to search deep inside myself to see what I honestly feel. Do I really mean the things that I have been saying all these years about the need for reconciliation between our two peoples? About the need to understand both the pain of the Jewish mother and the pain of a Palestinian mother? How do I really feel about the fact that David’s killer could be freed?

The answer I came up with is that the life of Gilad, and peace for his family is worth everything. Besides, what petty satisfaction and revenge would I feel if the man who killed David stayed in jail for the rest of his life? That wouldn’t fill the void which is always in my heart. There is no revenge for a lost loved one. I too would have released the whole world in order to get David back.

I belong to a group of Palestinians and Israelis called the Parents Circle - Families Forum. We are more than 600 families who have lost an immediate family member to the conflict. Our long-term vision is to create a framework for reconciliation process that would be an integral part of future political agreements.

When it was first disclosed that David’s killer may be walking free I received phone calls from my Palestinian friends, also members of the Parents Circle - Families Forum. They had listened carefully to the names of the prisoners released and when they had heard that David’s killer might be amongst them, they were in great turmoil. They wanted to come to my house, some from the West Bank, to be with me. They said they were proud of my reaction and that they also understood how painful it is.

I think of the pain of the Palestinian mothers in our group. Their pain is the same as mine and the tears are the same colour. Some of the men in our group had served jail sentences and today they are tireless campaigners for reconciliation.

I have been influenced by my meetings with ex-prisoners in South Africa and Ireland who have at least as much blood on their hands as some of the prisoners here. But they have turned around and have become central to the reconciliation process in their countries. Perhaps we too should be exploring the path of restorative justice?

In South Africa I met a bereaved white mother who set up an organisation to help ex-combatants together with the man who had been responsible for the death of her daughter. This is part of understanding how to overcome the state of being a victim.

I don’t want to be anyone’s victim. I won’t be the victim of the young man who killed my son. I will try to understand why he did what he did. It was very painful for me but at one point I went to see his lawyer to find out who this young man is. The road to reconciliation passes through understanding.

I think of my beloved son David. If he had not been killed by a sniper, he probably would have been at the tent supporting the Shalit family. He would have understood the value of human life. He would have understood that in the conflict in Ireland and in South Africa, prisoners with blood on their hands were freed so that an impetus for negotiations could be created. Some of the greatest peacemakers in those two countries came out of dark cells.

Reconciliation is all-inclusive. Prisoners and all sectors of Israeli and Palestinian society should come to the peacemaking table and take part in forging a peaceful future. We must find a way to reconciliation. Let us allow the Shalit family some dignity, grace and solace. Let us hope that the Palestinian prisoners, who after so many years are now being embraced into their families, will have a non-violent and peaceful future.

* Robi Damelin is a member of the Parents Circle - Families Forum, Bereaved Palestinian and Israeli Families for Reconciliation. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 18 October 2011, or GO here

See the Post just below for more on The Parents Circle and a special exhibit to be shown in Chicago early November 2011.

The Parents Circle in Chicago Nov 4-6, 2011 (Art Exhibit)

Plz take just a few minutes to WATCH this most moving video of the new effort for peace which has just been launced by The Parents Circle

GO hereThe Israeli Palestinian blood donations Project After sixty years of blood loss, it's time to give blood.Please Visit or CLICK here for more info. All are now invited to donate your blood and send our message across asking everyone: Could you hurt someone who had your blood running through their veins?

Also plz read these stories and opinions here and here and here

On November 4-6, 2011 The Parents Circle's internationally renowned exhibit Cartooning in Conflict will be shown at the Sculpture Objects & Functional Art Fair (SOFA) in Chicago.

On Friday, November 4 at 3:30pm at SOFA, two members of the organization, one Israeli and one Palestinian, who have both lost loved ones to the conflict will give a special lecture at SOFA. They will discuss their personal stories, as well as the work they are doing on the ground with the Parents Circle. The lecture will also include a discussion of the role of art in gaining perspective on the futility of war. Seating is available on a first come, first served basis.

We have a very limited number of special VIP tickets to the fair, donated in-kind by SOFA. They provide a unique opportunity to get to know our organization. As our friend and supporter we would like to offer you or someone from your network in Chicago a VIP ticket for two.

To receive a VIP admission, please RSVP to by Tuesday, November 1. For additional inquiries, please call 212.715.2579. You can also visit us at

Where: Navy Pier Chicago

When: November 4-6, 2011 and special VIP opening night preview, November 3 from 5 to 9pm. For exhibit hours please go to or CLICK here

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Killing People Is Not Good Policy

Friends Committee For National Legislation
By Bridget Moix on 10/20/2011 @ 01:30 PM

Tags: Peaceful Prevention, Libya, , Foreign Policy, War Is Not the Answer

Many in Libya - and here in Washington - are celebrating today's news that Qaddafi was fatally wounded in battle. The demise of the dictator is being hailed as a "success" for the NATO military intervention and a demonstration of how the "responsibility to protect" doctrine should work. We at FCNL disagree.

Any time a human conflict spirals into violence and war, with state-sanctioned extra-judicial killing as its policy end, it should be considered a human tragedy and a policy failure, not a success. Libya may be free of a brutal dictator today, but the civil war and international military intervention that killed him also took many other lives - civilians as well as those who took up arms on one side or the other. As Quakers, we believe each of these lives - no matter how ill-used - is still sacred in some way. Non-military methods for protecting civilians are available but are too rarely tried.

Moreover, as despicable as the actions of Qaddafi or others of these individuals were, killing them off does little to ensure peace and stability for Libya going forward. The long hard road to peace, justice, and development for the people of Libya will be much more difficult work and will not gain the headlines - or the billions of dollars in international support - that the war has.

Yesterday, before the news of Qaddafi's death broke, I participated in a roundtable discussion on the "responsibility to protect" with Madeleine Albright, Wes Clark, Sen. John McCain, and other leading foreign policy thinkers who all hailed the Libya intervention as a success as well. When I cautioned against using the word "success" when thousands of people have perished and the future remains still very unclear, I didn't win over many around the table. But if we don't say it, who will?

The Libya intervention has in fact set progress on implementing the responsibility to protect effectively backward. Many countries already suspicious of the intentions of powerful countries like the US believe the intervention went beyond its mandate to protect civilians. They are now opposed more than ever to supporting international action to prevent or respond to mass atrocities, as evidenced by China and Russia's vetos on a UN resolution simply condemning the Syrian government for its abuse of civilians. Ultimately, R2P can only gain global support and be effectively implemented if it focuses on preventing abuses and finding less intrusive and harmful ways of intervening to protect civilians when they are in danger.

These days, I'm downright appalled at how often US policy has deteriorated to assassination. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Central Africa, Somalia, Yemen, and who knows where else, our policymakers have failed so woefully to come up with more effective - and legal - alternatives, that they can do nothing but send in the drones or the special forces or arm other assassins to kill off the bad guys. And this is celebrated as success?

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Clinton stated forthrightly that the US wanted to see Qaddafi dead. Apparently the US got its wish. But we should be ashamed of our government, not proud. And we should be insisting our policymakers find better solutions than war and invest in more tools than just military hammers to address global problems.

2:10 pm As always, I am grateful for the presence of FCNL. Although I do not agree with all that you say above (I think Russia and China are more complex than you have implied, for example), I am profoundly grateful for this oasis of sanity when so many are rejoicing after looking at and reading about the killing of Gadaffi. Thank you.

2:43 pm Siletz Tribal member
Thank you for this article. The impulse for immediate or short term results it is hoped will be relaced with more thoughtful solutions that respect the sacrdeness of life. I too am profoundly grateful for this organization and site.

5:49 pm Thanks Bridget. This is just what I started thinking after my initial much less positive reaction. I just felt how does it improve things if we become as bad as the people we don't like.

6:07 pm I'm thankful for your voice. I felt a similar sadness when Bin Laden was killed. No matter how despicable their actions, we have failed to respect and honor human life when we resort to killing these men. In WW2 Germany was despised for using V2 rockets; now we are using drones and there is very little public reaction. All very sad. I think using drones is immoral.

9:27 pm Thanks. Hearing about his killing produced sadness. Placing evil on one and virtue on the other will only continue to produce more violence and war.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Laurna Strikwerda (Common Grounds) on Rais Bhuiyan - Written July 10, 2011

Rais Bhuiyan on left **
(see photo-related link below)
Photographer - Thomas Allison AP

One man fights for his shooter’s life


How would you respond if someone tried to kill you because of who you are? I know what my own responses would be: anger, fear, rage. For Rais Bhuiyan, the answer was different: forgiveness.

When I first heard Rais' story, I could hardly believe it. A Muslim victim of a post-9/11 hate crime was fighting to save the life of his attacker. And one of the reasons that Bhuiyan was targeted – his faith tradition – is also the motivation for trying to save his attacker's life.

When I first heard Rais Bhuiyan's story, I could hardly believe it. A Muslim victim of a post-9/11 hate crime was fighting to save the life of his attacker. And one of the reasons that Bhuiyan was targeted – his faith tradition – is also the motivation for trying to save his attacker's life.

Ten days after the September 11 attacks in 2001, Bhuiyan, an immigrant from Bangladesh, was working at a gas station in Dallas when a man walked in with a gun. Thinking the store was being robbed, Bhuiyan opened the cash register. Instead, the man asked him where he was from. "Excuse me?" Bhuiyan responded. Mark Stroman, a white supremacist who was targeting men who appeared to him to be Middle Eastern, then shot Bhuiyan in the face.

Stroman is scheduled to be executed by the state of Texas on 20 July for the murder of Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant killed on 4 October 2001; evidence was also presented at trial that Stroman shot and killed Waqar Hasan, a Pakistani immigrant. And Rais Bhuiyan is fighting to save Stroman's life.

I had the chance to speak with Bhuiyan briefly after learning about his campaign through Amnesty International.

Talking about his current campaign to convince the parole board to overturn the death penalty in Stroman's case, it was clear that his faith was the primary motivating factor. In 2009, Bhuiyan completed the haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, where he saw an amazingly diverse group come together to pray and worship. He recalled growing up as a young man in Bangladesh in a religious family, where his family prayed five times a day and his grandfather would visit every Thursday to read the Qur'an and tell his family stories from Muslim tradition, especially about the Prophet Muhammad.

One of the stories that impacted Bhuiyan the most was that of Muhammad's visit to Ta'if, a valley near Mecca, to spread the message of Islam. The people of Ta'if reacted cruelly, forcing him to leave. In the version of the story that Bhuiyan learned growing up, the angel Gabriel appeared with the angel of the mountains, who said to Muhammad, "If you like, I shall cause mountains surrounding Al-Ta'if, to fall on them, and crush them into pieces." But Muhammad declined, saying that the children of those who had been responsible for casting him out might someday embrace the message he had come to spread.

The message of forgiveness and redemption at the heart of this story rings powerfully true today in the lives of Mark Stroman and Rais Bhuiyan. When Stroman learned about Bhuiyan's work for his case, he broke down in tears. If Stroman is not executed, Bhuiyan says, "I believe he will be able to reach out to others. If he can touch one life, that would be a success. If he is gone, we lose the opportunity to educate others."

This faith in the future, and in the belief that we can positively impact the lives of others by sharing our stories, is a powerful anecdote to the fear that has gripped our country in the years since 9/11 – fear that has sometimes sparked violence. What is at the root of Stroman's crime, Bhuiyan believes, is hate. And he believes that the antidote to this hatred is education and compassion, not further violence. Despite what has happened to him, Bhuiyan believes that the United States is "still a beautiful country."

After hearing Bhuiyan's story, I realised I had gained a deeper understanding of forgiveness and compassion, some of the highest principles of my own faith tradition as well as his. His story should compel us to look at our country and its future.

Will we choose fear? Or will we choose to reach out to those who are different from us, to hear their stories, to begin to dismantle our fears and choose instead to have faith in our future?

Laurna Strikwerda is a programme coordinator with the Muslim-Western dialogue programme at the international conflict transformation organisation Search for Common Ground. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

** Photo above was found with another compelling article July 21, 2011 here

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Yemeni Woman Receives the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee. All three, together, received this award "for their non-violent stuggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work"

Tawakul Karman

See the Nobel Peace Prize site here

Sahar Taman, of Islamophobia Today, writes...

In 2009 I had the privilege to spend two weeks with Tawakul Karman, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee. We traveled the United States visiting grassroots communities in a study tour on ‘religion and society’ for a program I directed for the National Peace Foundation. Tawakul, and her husband Mohamed Al-Nehmi, her supporter and co-activist, joined a delegation of Arab international activists and scholars as observers of the religious landscape of America. I had invited Tawakul and Mohamed to the U.S. when I visited Women Journalists Without Chains in Sana’a, the Yemeni non-governmental organization (NGO) advocating for freedom of the press which Tawakul had founded.I found Tawakul to be an open book. She is a Yemeni Muslim woman who actually is not at all unconventional as she may have been depicted recently. Rather she is quite socially conservative. However she is extraordinary in her leadership.

READ More here

Sunday, October 9, 2011

10 October is the 9th World Day Against the Death Penalty

This year's World Day
focuses on the inhumanity of the death penalty as a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment. The dreadful conditions on death row inflict extreme psychological suffering and execution is a physical and mental assault.

Death row inmates around the world are held in appalling conditions: the cells are not suitable for a human being; the dietary regime is inadequate; and access to medical care is difficult.

Not only are inmates placed in physical cruel and unusual circumstances, but their mind is also greatly affected by their situation, with many death row inmates suffering from mental illness and mental disabilities as a result of their death sentence.

Executions, regardless of the method used, are cruel and inhumane. They can and do go wrong in many cases.

To stop this, sign the petition! GO here

World Coalition Against the Death Penalty here

Activists Commemorate 9th World Day Against the Death Penalty here

Help the Pacific Rise Above the Death Penalty here

US and International articles daily with Alarming US Stats and World Day items. (Yes to Pakistan for their long moratorium and for resisting a pre-meditated execution for so long!) GO to Death Penalty News and Updates here

Saturday, October 8, 2011


T. Egon Schiele: "Four Trees," 1918

You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or in the silence after lightning before it says
its names — and then the clouds’ wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles — you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head —
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.

—William Stafford

Find more of this poet's poems here...Note especially "A Ritual to Read to Each Other" and "Simple Talk" here

Stafford was an American pacifist/conscientious objector. Read more about him. He's new to me as well...

As an enormously admired writer, he traveled thousands of miles each year to give readings and to encourage aspiring poets throughout the United States, Egypt, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Germany, Austria, Poland and many other countries.

This itself says a lot about the man and artist!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Puzzled by Gitmo & related? If you're in New York, you may want to attend...

GO here I've been with and spoken to a number of these folk and been to a number of related events - there are lots of missing facts except to say we in the US have a lot to explain. Try to go to this if at all possible.!

Abdul Sattar Edhi and The Edhi Foundation

The head of the Edhi Foundation, collects donations for the poorest of the poor and the most crucially in need.

Abstract: Edhi says that his true religion is human rights. Ambulance dispatchers field 6,000 calls a day in Karachi and route patrolling vehicles by radio, boasting a 10-minute response time in Pakistan's biggest city. It was an Edhi ambulance that picked up the body of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed by Al Qaeda here in 2002

The following is an article by Mark Magnier

In troubled Pakistan, a humanitarian light shines through

COLUMN ONE Los Angeles Times October 4, 2011:

The Edhi Foundation funds hundreds of centers nationwide for orphans, senior citizens, the disabled, even injured is beloved by the public.

Read the new article from October 04, 2011|By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Karachi, Pakistan —

He owns a single set of clothing and often sleeps in a storage room — even though millions of dollars pass through his hands annually. At 83, creature comforts don't matter much to Abdul Sattar Edhi. He is far too busy caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, burying the dead.

Known to some as Pakistan's Mother Teresa, Edhi is a humanitarian light in a violent and troubled land. The vast majority here struggle daily in a moribund economy. Natural disasters are common. Poverty, political instability, corruption, and attacks by Islamic militants, criminals and political enforcers are facts of life. *

In this environment, a shrinking violet won't make much headway, he says. You've got to be tough.

Gruff and confident, Edhi refers to himself as a bhikhari, or beggar, and he wears his worn black tunic as a badge of honor. He has a picture of Karl Marx, as well as Mother Teresa, on his office wall. He has been condemned by some Pakistanis as a communist, a madman, an Israeli agent or a bad Muslim for his work with "infidels" — his charity does not discriminate by religion, race or gender.

He counters that his true religion is human rights. That the government is hopelessly inefficient, and most social workers corrupt. That politicians and religious leaders know they can exploit the poor. That foreign contributions usually come with unacceptable conditions.

And then there are Pakistan's rich, who seek him out in hope of absorbing some of his reflected glory. Even as he welcomes their donations, he chides them for their priorities and their motives.

A few months ago, he says, a Pakistani industrialist asked him at a reception what he could do for humanity.

"I told him, 'Pay your taxes and stop wasting money on luxuries and sipping tea,'" he says. "That was it. He ran right away."

Donations to the Edhi Foundation fund hundreds of centers nationwide for orphans, senior citizens, drug abusers, the mentally disabled, abused women, even injured animals. It operates hospitals, mobile dispensaries, free kitchens, helicopters, airplanes and hundreds of "little white" ambulances resembling oversize bread boxes.

His foundation has been chided for its less-than-exact approach to accounting **, but the public keeps contributing, a reflection, supporters say, of how much Pakistanis trust him. But that also creates something of a Catch-22. As he fills the vacuum, the state has even less incentive to step up.

"If the government did anything, we wouldn't need to rely on people like Edhi," said Mohammad Arif, who sells lace and buttons in Karachi.

In the words of Hussein Manzoor, 47, who sold fruit until his cart was stolen recently, Edhi is a "godsend." Manzoor visited a free dispensary operated by Edhi in Karachi for treatment of an allergy that developed after an earthquake in Kashmir in 2005. Twelve relatives died, but he survived and moved to Karachi. Without his cart, Manzoor is struggling to support three children, but he is grateful to be alive.

"He's chosen to work among the poorest of the poor," said Mazhar Zaidi, a documentary filmmaker. "Others put a water tap in villages and go home. They don't live there."

In fact, the octogenarian often sleeps in a cluttered storeroom of his office, relegated there by his wife, Bilquis, a nurse who is also a key figure in the charity. "My wife kicked me out, so I stay here," he says with a laugh.

For decades, Edhi's popularity in this country of 170 million people has allowed his ambulances to brave riots, gun fights and ethnic battles. Thieves, political goons and even the Taliban have offered contributions and free passage. But in a worrisome sign underscoring Pakistan's deterioration, his ambulances were shot at and a rescue worker wounded in July during rioting in Karachi.

Ambulance dispatchers field 6,000 calls a day in Karachi and route patrolling vehicles by radio, boasting a 10-minute response time in Pakistan's biggest city. It was an Edhi ambulance that picked up the body of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed by Al Qaeda here in 2002.

Reflecting the breadth of services Edhi provides, ambulance drivers wait outside a downtown Karachi control center beside a steel cage filled with goats, four-legged donations-in-waiting that benefactors can buy for the poor.

There also is a steel basinet where mothers can leave unwanted babies, night or day.

"Recently we're not seeing so many left," dispatch supervisor Aftab Husain said. "More babies are showing up in garbage cans again. We're not sure why, since everyone knows Edhi."

Edhi's trademark service has been washing unclaimed bodies to prepare them for burial in keeping with Islamic tradition, something until recently he often did himself. Some question the logic of diverting resources to the dead, but he says it's important for religious reasons and to emphasize dignity for all.

Find the original of this article here

Notes from Blogger, Connie:

* not to mention often unfair, skewed and "mirror" sort of attacks from US military leaders and the US press

** by the way, my family has donated to Pakistan flood victims twice through The Edhi Foundation office in New York and received back kind, prompt receipt. I find that the foundations system allows for more DIRECT money and resources to go WHERE most needed without a lot of bureaucracy. Isn't this how the best groups such as Mother Teresa's work have been operating?

Plz consider helping through the most appropriate Edhi office toward relief for the ONGOING displacement agony of those STILL suffering from the most RECENT floods. Thank You for your attention.

I believe the information in this post is still up-to-date (plz let me know if you find otherwise or have any trouble reaching the office closest to you and I will do my best to help: - send with a CLEAR subject heading plz):

Here's the one charity recommended over and over again because of the long history with emergency relief in and out of Pakistan. (Our family plans to continue donating here) GO here

Check Out: dancing in broken urdu Kazmi-sahib manages the entire Edhi Foundation’s social services GO for an earlier post here

SEE earlier posts elsewhere - quite easy to find with a quick search

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quick Note from blogger, Connie

Readers, I'm going to take a short break to update my technique may want to visit the other two blogs with which I work to check out the archives, add comments, leave your own impressions, connections, etc.:

No more Crusades dot Go here

The Journey of Hope dot Go here

Both of these will also soon be resting while I work on other writing - update and hopefully improve my technique and content. However, I will try to check the comments - add my own comments - and publish those appropriate several times per week.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Updated: Imagine a World Without Hate

Photo found on Reprieve UK site

Just found this one on the death of one of Mark Stroman's pen pals: Goodbye Marge check out the Reprieve site often at - GO here

Recently on World Peace Day, Rais Bhuiyan (one of Mark Stroman's victims) said "This is the anniversary of my shooting...The lessons I’ve learned during the last decade, and the journey I’ve taken moved me from a place of pain on the deepest level to a place of hope for a kinder world."

Read Rais Bhuiyan's words for yourself.

"...Yes! We can build a better world by paying attention and noticing where we blame and build walls with our family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Then we can choose to change and diminish anger...It’s not easy, but the future of humanity depends on us. Our actions CAN heal. I know this because 10 years ago I was the survivor of a hate crime."

Here is a man who, along with the widows of Mark Stroman's two murdered victims, would choose to try to stop their perpetrator's execution. This rare witness of genuine forgiveness led to a dramatic change in the life of their perpetrator. A few weeks ago, countless people from all backgrounds joined in the plea for Stroman's life.

Read entire post and more here

Let's choose life and healing today by accepting this transformative invitation from this new movement:

"We invite you to join us in taking this image beyond imagination to reality. Learn about hate crimes through our website and work to prevent them. See our Get Involved section here

We’ve got to stop the hate and give peace a chance! Let’s work together to end the cycle of hate and violence, and make this world a better place for us and our next generations!"

Read an article about this story as well from Huffington Post here

See an earlier press conference on Reprieve's UK site - Rais Buiyan press conference in Germany from 05 July 2011 - here

Some of the places/events where "World Without Hate" plans to go...
We are taking the message into the world by speaking at:

- Churches
- Schools
- Prisons
- Universities
- Governments, and anywhere we can.

Events & Activities


- Search for Common Ground, Washington, D.C.
- American University, D.C.
- Meeting with the co-founder of “Journey of Hope”
- CAIR (Council on American –Islamic Relations), Washington, DC.


- Amnesty Regional West Conference, CA
- Amnesty Regional South Conference, NC
- Rome, Italy


- Rome, Italy