Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How Rich One Day Can Be

I awoke this am soon getting on my knees.  Upon standing there was a depth of knowing within that this was/is on a new trek in my prayer life. The essence is that relating to God/Allah via prayer is so much more significant/real/important than ever before.  This feels/is more real than any of my other
relationships.  This is a visceral/mental/spiritual/psychological experience.

When checking emails I find the joy, breeze and light in a note from a young friend.  Her inner beauty, honesty and enthusiasm increase my own energy and motivation.  How lovely an intergenerational/international correspondence can be.

There is a new person in my life -- a lovely woman who is so childlike and so needy that I tend to try
to limit my time with her.  Today we go to excercise class together.  Then to a coffee shop.  We talk about her difficulty with her college-educated daughter.  And we thank God together that this is going better this week.  We are also thankful together that she still has her small job when she thought she had lost this.  She grabs on to my use of dignified in reference to her new attitude.

Each time I am with her I marvel at how grateful she is for the smallest gesture of friendship.   I recognize how little is asked of me when someone like this Jamaican woman -- who's been through hell and back -- reflects to me such a rare willingness to learn what she has not had the opportunity to learn thus far.  I am rewarded a hundred times over for such a small amount of time and energy the few times we meet.

Today several quotes engraved on the walls near where I drink my coffee almost look like they have lights behind them:

"What would be the good of learning without Love?  That would puff us up.  And Love without learning would go astray."   Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Here is the way I suddenly substituted the word 'writing' for 'learning' in this quote:

What is the benefit of writing without Love?  And what is Love (for the writer) without writing?
Perhaps Love (for me as a writer) could then go astray.  (In part).

So I am taking notice that since I am a writer at heart who is only partially realized in this calling --
I am perhaps actually losing Love energy by not applying myself to the same?

There is another part of me who also looks for truth.  This part is alive indeed as well as the writer-part.  So today in my extra prayerful mode I notice this quote almost the same time as the one above:

Numbers 15:15-16  From the Bible (Old Testament)

The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you;  this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.  You and the foreigner shall be the same before the Lord:  The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you.

My dear friend Barbara practices this daily for years with her originally immigrant friends and teachers of the displaced from all over the world.   She knows these seven below named wonderfully gifted young people and called about a week ago to ask for prayer for these students who just graduated.  There was some concern that  this article/interview might stir up trauma.  As things turned out -- my friend felt quite relieved about this article:


This may seem out of place yet I needed one more event that might happen on one day so I decided
to put this from The Indian Express as a tribute to World Environment day.  These artists are remembering
this special day although their town is one of the most polluted in the world.  This too makes each day and place a space of ongoing co-creation with the Divine.

What an interesting way to go through a day.  What might occur during this dialogue with the Divine during the evening?  As I get ready for interacting with my incredibly courageous Mother I am so glad to have such riches to share with her.

Link and credit for first photo:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Endless Heart of Spring

Today is a day of birch bark peeling back, opening, making a place for sunlight to land;

A day for the dance of memory -- for Ruminating
          while settling back
                        into the warm, hard sycamore.

This is a place for gazing at frosted mountain tops
           on the first Monday of Spring.

This is the right place for hearing
           the whirring of birds taking flight...

This day is a book of hours -- with the feel of other sacred moments multiplied --
Time melts into itself yet doesn't disappear.

Here is when all seasons
            and worlds
                          and human loves
                                       (whether steady, wild, or winged)
                                                                         into the endless encircling heart...

O God...make of me...
                        Your breath...
                                               Your flute...

(Written during a time of months with my Mother Ruby Shelman's -- upon the beautiful event of receiving
a gift of poetry which has been most helpful throughout this journey.)

My Mother is a musician and the following also feels just right to add the RUMI poem to mine:

The Music We Are

Did you hear that winter’s over? The basil

and the carnations cannot control their

laughter. The nightingale, back from his

wandering, has been made singing master

over the birds. The trees reach out their

congratulations. The soul goes dancing

through the king’s doorway. Anemones blush

because they have seen the rose naked.

Spring, the only fair judge, walks in the

courtroom, and several December thieves steal

away, Last year’s miracles will soon be

forgotten. New creatures whirl in from non-

existence, galaxies scattered around their

feet. Have you met them? Do you hear the

bud of Jesus crooning in the cradle? ...

A feast is set...
Love used to hide

inside images: no more! The orchard hangs

out its lanterns....

Nothing can stay bound or be


Even poems are rough notations

for the music we are.

Mother's Day began with a Non-Violent Vision

At first glance, Mother's Day appears a quaint and conservative holiday, a sort of greeting card moment, honoring 1950s values, a historical throw back to old-fashioned notions of hearth and home.
Let's correct that impression by saying: Happy Radical Mother's Day.
In May 1907, Anna Jarvis, a member of a Methodist congregation in Grafton, West Virginia, passed out 500 white carnations in church to commemorate the life of her mother. One year later, the same Methodist church created a special service to honor mothers. Many progressive and liberal Christian organizations--like the YMCA and the World Sunday School Association--picked up the cause and lobbied Congress to make Mother's Day a national holiday. And, in 1914, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson made it official and signed Mother's Day into law. Thus began the modern celebration of Mother's Day in the United States.
For some years, radical Protestant women had been agitating for a national Mother's Day hoping that it would further a progressive political agenda that favored issues related to women's lives. In the late 19th century, Julia Ward Howe (better know for the "Battle Hymn of the Republic") expressed this hope in her 1870 prose-poem, "A Mother's Day Proclamation" calling women to pacifism and political resistance:
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly...
"Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God -

Years later, Anna Jarvis intended the new holiday to honor all mothers beginning with her own--Anna Reeves Jarvis, who had died in 1905. Although now largely forgotten, Anna Reeves Jarvis was a social activist and community organizer who shared the political views of other progressive women like Julia Ward Howe.
In 1858, Anna Reeves Jarvis organized poor women in West Virginia into "Mothers' Work Day Clubs" to raise the issue of clean water and sanitation in relation to the lives of women and children. She also worked for universal access to medicine for the poor. Reeves Jarvis was also a pacifist who served both sides in the Civil War by working for camp sanitation and medical care for soldiers of the North and the South.
Although I've never seen it on a pastel flowered greeting card, Mother's Day honors a progressive feminist, inclusive, non-violent vision for world community--born in the imagination of women who devoted themselves to God, not Caesar.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

From Gitmo: Sufi Man of Peace Speaks Out

From Guantánamo, Younus Chekhouri Speaks About the Prison Clampdown: “Everyone is Traumatized by What Happened”

Three weeks ago, as part of my ongoing coverage of the prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo, which is now in its fourth month, I published an account by Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the London-based legal action charity Reprieve, with one of the men that Reprieve’s lawyers represent in Guantánamo — Younus Chekhouri (also identified as Younous Chekkouri), a Moroccan, a Sufi Muslim, and one of the 86 prisoners cleared for release from Guantánamo as a result of the deliberations of a task force appointed by President Obama in 2009.
As I explained at the time, Younus’s story “has long fascinated me, as he has always been one of the most peaceful prisoners in Guantánamo, and has always categorically refuted all the allegations against him that relate to terrorism and military activity.” I also explained how “I found his testimony from Guantánamo, in the tribunals and review boards that took place under President Bush, to be both compelling and credible.”
Below is the description of him that I included in a series of articles about the remaining prisoners in Guantánamo back in 2010, which I posted previously but am posting again because it explains who he is, rather than who the US authorities thought he was:
Chekhouri is accused of being a founder member of the Moroccan Islamic Fighting Group (or GICM, the Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain), who had a training camp near Kabul, but he has always maintained that he traveled to Afghanistan in 2001, with his Algerian wife, after six years in Pakistan, where he had first traveled in search of work and education, and has stated that they lived on the outskirts of Kabul, working for a charity that ran a guest house and helped young Moroccan immigrants, and had no involvement whatsoever in the country’s conflicts. He has also repeatedly explained that he was profoundly disillusioned by the fighting amongst Muslims that has plagued Afghanistan’s recent history, and he has also expressed his implacable opposition to the havoc wreaked on the country by Osama bin Laden, describing him as “a crazy person,” and adding that “what he does is bad for Islam.”
Below I’m publishing an account by one of Reprieve’s lawyers of a phone call with Younus that took place on April 18, shortly after a violent early morning raid on April 13 that was initiated by the authorities — ostensibly to break the hunger strike, but in fact to restore order in the prison with no regard for why the prisoners are on a hunger strike — not to cause trouble for its own sake, but because all of them, even the men cleared for release, despair of ever being released, having been abandoned by all three branches of the US government.
The raid took place in Camp 6, where the majority of the prisoners are held, and where they had been able to spend much of their time living communally until the raid, when they were locked up in solitary confinement — an act of enormous cruelty  given the men’s desperation.
Younus’s words shed new light on the raid, which I previously reported here, and, as Clive Stafford Smith stated when a short version of Younus’s account was made available last week, “We all should have learned the danger of a secret prison from the Soviets. Unfortunately the US military has been dissembling again. The prisoners did not start this. The US military went in there with guns literally blazing at 5.10am in the morning, as detainees prepared for morning prayer, immediately after the Red Cross left the base, so there would be no independent observers. Sad to say, torture and abuse continue in Guantánamo Bay and the US is throwing away yet more of its dwindling moral authority.”
As ever, if you appreciate Younus’s story, please publicize it as widely as possible. Despite President Obama’s fine words about the horrors of Guantánamo last week, he made no promises about what he would do to free cleared prisoners and initiate reviews for the other 80 men, or what he would do to revisit his promise to close the prison, beyond vague promises to call on Congress to work with him.
We need to keep Guantánamo in the public eye, and to remind people that the men held are human beings and not mere statistics, or “the worst of the worst” as the Bush administration called them when the prison opened.
If you have not done so, please also sign and share the petition to President Obama on Change.org, launched by Col. Morris Davis, which has secured over 185,000 signatures in just over a week!

Notes from a phone call with Younus Chekhouri, April 18, 2013

“What has happened here now is real nightmare. Nobody dreamed that what has happened would happen. After our peaceful demonstration, on Sunday morning the guards came in with guns. They used shotguns and three people were injured. Used gun with small bullets.”
“The guards came in, closed all of our cells, [removed us from our cells and] told us to get on the ground. We lay there on our belly for three hours or more. They took everything. Cells empty, nothing left. They moved us into another empty block and after a while they gave us blanket and that is all. They said it’s punishment.”
“History repeats itself, like it was seven years ago. [All we can have now are] blankets and clothes [on our backs]. [The cell I am in now] is really cold.”
Younus said he is now in pain as a result of having to sleep on the concrete floor: “Pain starts immediately when I’m on the floor. Pain in my neck, pain in my chest. No pillow. Punishment for everybody. Punishment because we hide cameras in cell and so this is what happened. They took everything, left cell empty.”
Younus is still not eating. He has Ensure and Metamucil but that is it. He said others who are worse off than him are getting nothing at all.
When asked to give a chronology of how things happened on Sunday, Younus said: “I was sleeping on Sunday. At almost 5am guards came in with shotguns. There was no confrontation that prompted it. When I woke up I heard them using guns on the detainees in the block next door. The detainees didn’t have anything. The guards used force to control some of the detainees, to force them out of the cells. Used tear gas [as well]. 5-6 ERF team would come in and throw detainees to the floor.” [Note: ERF is a reference to the Extreme Reaction Force, an armoured five-man team responsible for punishing infringements of the rules -- or perceived infringements of the rules].
“[For hours on Sunday morning the detainees were forced to lay on their stomachs]. We had no right to move, no right to go to the bathroom.”
They shackled detainees’ hands and feet and moved them into individual isolation cells. “Finally at night they gave blankets. It was very cold in the empty cells.”
In terms of the number of guards that “invaded” the block: “More than 50 came in on my block and there were only 13 detainees on my block. Nobody [no detainees] thought to fight. What do we have to fight with? [Plus] we were outnumbered. Guards were scary, they were ready to use guns, use force. It was very scary.”
More about how Younus was awoken on Sunday: “Sunday I was sleeping. I heard people yelling outside, so I came outside of cell. Then I saw guards closing outside doors and the guards with guns. They used tear gas to keep detainees away. Heard sound of gun next door. Said three were injured: one on belly, one on hand, one on body. They were taken to hospital. Not sure how they are doing. Everyone is traumatized by what happened.”
“To be treated this way after 11 years is not right. They are using the same rules as first day of opening Gitmo.”
“Water now is privilege. There is no right to have water and they tell you that they can cut it at any time. I suffer all day. We don’t know when this will end. They said this is just the beginning. We were calling for things to get better, but things are worse.”
Younus is still in Camp 6, but in isolation.
“Nightmare has started again. I feel distress, anxiety, disease, anger. In the future no one knows what could happen, what to expect now that this has happened. Camp 6 now isolation. Everyone in his cell. Only 2 detainees can have rec at a time. Same rules as when Camp 6 was opened for first time in 2007. It’s like we are starting again from the beginning, like a game.”
Younus would like to “thank everyone who can save me from this hell. I have German connection. I would be grateful for them to help me be free. I am in a helpless place, I have lost hope in the democracy of the United States. I thought my torture had ended, but what is happening now is horrible. I feel like a slave in Gitmo. Thank anyone who can do anything to help people in Gitmo. I really need your help. My wish is that nice people around the world can help.”
On conditions now in camp 6: Younus is sleeping on “concrete, hard floor, very cold. Knees, head, body hurts. No pillows, hard to sleep. My shoes are my pillows. Pains in back. Cannot move, cannot pray, cannot get to toilet because I am in pain.”
“My dream is one day I will leave this place.” Younus seemed very anxious because of what happened Sunday and said that he’s “afraid that I will be punished and they will take everything I have now.” A blanket is all he has.
They have gone “back to 2002-2003.” Younus believes they did this so that detainees would “stop complaining or requesting things to be better.” He said they said: “You have no right to ask for your release and better treatment.”
Younus knew they were using the detainees blocking the cameras as a so-called justification for the raid because “when they invaded the block, they told us get on floor, lay on belly, don’t cover camera. Now using old rules, start practicing old rules. When you ask why, they say it’s because people were hiding cameras. They say they don’t know when things will get better.”
“No one [guards] will give answers why this [Sunday’s raid and loss of everything] has happened. Will it stay forever, or short time? No one says anything, just that this is punishment for hiding cameras. No way to negotiate now, we just have to obey.”
“People are old, sick and they cannot deal with this.” He said in many ways it’s worse now than when these same tactics were used 11 years ago because the men have aged and have been through hell in Gitmo all these years. “Unfair that they are back to treating us like animals.”
Younus has “now lost 35 lbs. Going down. Taking Ensure but weight is still going down.” He will continue to take Ensure himself because he “doesn’t want tubes in nose.”
Again, before the call ended, Younus wanted to “please say thank you to everyone out there.”
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon.)