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Category: Human Rights

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Check out The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which 193 countries have ratified, excluding the United States, Somalia and South Sudan:

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No Man’s Land (2001)

What do you get when you stick a Bosnian and a Serb together between the front lines? Plus one Bosnian stuck on a mine? Absurdity and allegory abound in No Man’s Land, set in 1993 during the Bosnian War. Consider watching this very funny and very moving Oscar-winning, debut film from director Danis Tanovic. BTW, it beat Amelie (2001) for the best foreign film Oscar–which is saying something.

Powerful Images

Be ready to be moved.

“Gifts that Change Lives”

Listen to Nicolas Kristof! Here are organizations that he mentions in this op-ed:

Heifer International
International Rescue Committee
Shining Hope for Communities
Vital Voices
Polaris Project
Fair Girls

1000 cranes

Make-A-Crane has donated a string of 1000 cranes to Half the Sky for their silent auction 🙂

Half the Sky

Just saw New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof speak at Brown University! Wonderful, invigorating presentation from a man doing a lot of good in this world. Kristof spoke of numerous women he has encountered through his work, expressed hope that us students would challenge ourselves to experience the new despite fear of the unknown, and presented a very nuanced reflection on just how much a difference we can make. We’ve won “the lottery of life,” he said — we’ve got a bit of responsibility to those who have not.

Henry David Thoreau

Here is a wonderful 3-part series on Thoreau, a great thinker who lived peacefully, with integrity, and in harmony with nature. He stressed the importance of individual reflection and thought.

 

 

World’s Most Powerful Photographs

See this:

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. Very inspiring. For artists and thinkers.

Self-described as “a brand for liberal thinking and individualism…”

 

The Americans

An excerpt (the last stanza) from a poem by Robert Hayden:

confess i am curiously drawn     unmentionable     to
the americans     doubt i could exist among them for 
long however     psychic demands far too severe 
much violence     much that repels     i am attracted 
none the less     their variousness their ingenuity 
their elan vital     and that some thing     essence 
quiddity     i cannot penetrate or name

Fifteen Years of Darkness

This poem is by Liu XiaoBo, translated by Jeffrey Yang. Here are the first two stanzas:

15 years ago
a massacre took place at daybreak
I died then was reborn

15 years have passed
daybreak bayonets dyed red
is still a blade fixed in the eyes

					

Women for Women International

“I believe the way to stop violence against women is to speak out and refuse to be silent.”

“Women are the glue of families and societies; when women thrive, countries thrive.”

–Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi woman who founded Women for Women International at age 23, in 1993

There is lots more from the website!: Women for Women International provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies. We’re changing the world one woman at a time.

“Welcome to the world’s nicest prison”

See the full CNN article for details and definitely watch the movie clip! This is a wonderful approach to rehabilitation.

“Who would you rather have as your neighbor? Someone who’s set free after years behind bars–or a prisoner who for such a long time has had the chance to be part of a community?”

“This is what we call ‘human ecology’…It has to do with human relationships and the awareness that you’re part of a greater whole.”

–Arne Kvernik Nilsen, governor of Bastoy prison

The Center for Nonviolent Communication (NVC)

On their website:

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is based on the principles of nonviolence– the natural state of compassion when no violence is present in the heart.

NVC begins by assuming that we are all compassionate by nature and that violent strategies—whether verbal or physical—are learned behaviors taught and supported by the prevailing culture. NVC also assumes that we all share the same, basic human needs, and that each of our actions are a strategy to meet one or more of these needs.

People who practice NVC have found greater authenticity in their communication, increased understanding, deepening connection and conflict resolution.

The NVC community is active in over 65 countries around the globe. Find out more about how NVC is changing the world and how you can get involved.

Creativity Awakens

“People living in disenfranchised and traumatized communities often became totally silenced and invisible to the world.”

“Awakening creativity in people in general, especially in traumatized situations, empowers and heals. It gives them space to express themselves and share their grief, despair and dreams for the future.”

“Art is a powerful took in building community and social change. Artists can be at the center of that change.”

–Lily Yeh, who began Barefoot Artists, a non-profit that works with the poor communities to creates social change

Our Prisons Reveal Our Values (and lack of)

We are social beings. Solitary confinement takes a part of our being. Here is an article on a hearing that took place Tuesday on solitary confinement.

Anthony Graves: In response to people who claim it has no psychological effects, “I say, ‘Go live there for 30 days, and then tell me that.’…Solitary confinement makes our criminal justice criminal…It dehumanizes us all.”

Peace-Building Institute

The application deadline for university students to attend a 2-week Peace-Building Institute has been extended to June 30, 2012. The downside is that the program fee is $1,200 and does not include travel to Rwanda, immunizations, insurance, passport/visa fees, and personal expenses.

Never Again Rwanda is a human rights, peace-building organization that was founded in 2002 and is registered as a Rwandan non-governmental organization. The founding members recognized that the minds of young people were used to destroy Rwanda leading up to and during the 1994 Tutsi genocide. Even as a post-genocide society, they observed that divisions continued to exist between young Rwandans. Guided by a vision of a nation where young people are agents of positive change and work together towards sustainable peace and development, the founding members established Never Again Rwanda (NAR) to empower youth with opportunities to become active citizens.

“An online word-sculpture protesting the prison-industrial complex”

This is a wonderful idea:

“I Am Writing A Letter Each Day to My Brother Who Is In Prison For 4-15 Years” 

Here are posts.

The Dictator

Put away political correctness and thoroughly enjoy The Dictator. It sheds some surprising light on America, too.

“Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry”

Love these investigative multiple-page articles.

“A poem is a sword.” -Saheera Sharif

“Making love to an old man is like

Making love to a limp cornstalk blackened by fungus.”

-Gulmakai, 22, an Afghan woman whose father made her marry an old man at 15

Photojournalism

Photo Essays from Mother Jones. Here is the environment page. And politics pageCharles Taylor. For those who don’t know what Mother Jones is, prepare yourselves:

“Mother Jones is a nonprofit news organization that specializes in investigative, political, and social justice reporting. We currently have two main “platforms”: an award-winning bimonthly national magazine (circulation 240,000), and a website featuring new, original reporting 24-7. (In the past we’ve had a radio show and TV specials; theme parks are in the conceptual stage.) Why should you read or support us? Because “smart, fearless journalism” keeps people informed—”informed” being pretty much indispensable to a democracy that actually works. Because we’ve been ahead of the curve time and again. Because this is journalism not funded by or beholden to corporations. Because we bust bullshit and get results. Because we’re expanding our investigative coverage while the rest of the media are contracting. Because you can count on us to take no prisoners, cleave to no dogma, and tell it like it is. Plus we’re pretty damn fun.”

Conflict Photography

Here are amazing photography and explanations tagged as “Conflict Photography” from the New York Times.

John Hunter on the World Peace Game

Revolutionary teaching.

Lucas Foglia

For a series called “A Natural Order,” Lucas Foglia photographed people living self-sufficiently (“off the grid”) in southeastern America. Here is his website, which includes resources for those interested in such a lifestyle.

Giving What We Can

Interesting choice of recommended charities to give to.

Essays on giving.

Some quotations on giving.

Very interesting decision to place names of members (those who pledged 10% of their income) on this list.

Carnegie Endowment…

…for International Peace

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The Wilson Center. Students might be interested in this.

Givology

Great idea on giving.

Free Documentary Site

This is a wonderful site! You can watch documentaries ranging the spectrum of possibilities.

Obama Signs Indefinite Detention Into Law

Read this, on the American Civil Liberties Union website page.

Too many politicians talk the talk and neglect the walking part.

Inside-Out Prison Exchange

Here is a quote from the editorial:

These are no Florence Nightingale-minded do-gooders. These women are locked up to learn. They are among the first in Canada to participate in a remarkable program that brings university students and prison inmates together to study in a post-secondary class.

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program allows those in prison who never dreamed of going beyond high school to achieve that seeming impossibility. It is rehabilitative, character-changing and confidence-building. It has been shown to reduce crime and violence.

Steve McCurry’s Photos On Afghanistan

This is a beautiful photo essay by Steve McCurry, a worldwide photographer. It is called “Afghanistan: A Look Back.” Subscribe to his blog to get these kinds of posts by email.

Davis Projects for Peace

Check out these Projects for Peace. So many creative proposals, from empowering women with computer skills and workshops to establishing community gardens and bringing in guest lecturers.

Miss Saigon

I was moved by this tragic love story between a Vietnamese bargirl (Kim) and an American GI (Chris). The context is the Vietnam War and it (in part) demonstrates how f****d war and all associated with it can be. It has a beautiful, powerful musical score. Below are two songs, “The Movie in My Mind” and “Sun and Moon,” with lyrics:

[GIGI]
They are not nice, they’re mostly noise
They swear like men, they screw like boys
I know there’s nothing in their hearts
But every time I take one in my arms
It starts:
The movie in my mind
The dream they leave behind
A scene I can’t erase
And in a strong GI’s embrace
Flee this life
Flee this place
The movie plays and plays
The screen before me fills
He takes me to New York
He gives me dollar bills
Our children laugh all day
And eat too much ice cream
And life is like a dream
Dream
The dream I long to find
The movie in my mind

[KIM]
I will not cry, I will not think
I’ll do my dance, I’ll make them drink
When I make love, it won’t be me
And if they hurt me, I’ll just close my eyes

[KIM, GIRLS]
And see they are not nice, they’re mostly noise
The movie in my mind they kill like men, they die like boys
The dream that fills my head they give their cash, they keep their hearts
A man who will not kill but every night again it starts

[KIM]
Who’ll fight for me instead
He’ll keep us safe all day
So no one comes at night
To blow the dream away
Dream
The dream I have to find
The movie in my mind

[ALL GIRLS]
And in a strong GI’s embrace
Flee this life
Flee this place

[KIM]
A world that’s far away
Where life is not unkind
The movie in my mind

[KIM]
You are sunlight and I moon
Joined by the gods of fortune
Midnight and high noon
Sharing the sky
We have been blessed, you and I

[CHRIS]
You are here like a mystery
I’m from a world that’s so different
From all that you are
How in the light of one night
Did we come so far?

[KIM]
Outside day starts to dawn

[CHRIS]
Your moon still floats on high

[KIM]
The birds awake

[CHRIS]
The stars shine too

[KIM]
My hands still shake

[CHRIS]
I reach for you

[BOTH]
And we meet in the sky!

[KIM]
You are sunlight and I moon
Joined here
Bright’ning the sky
With the flame
Of love

[BOTH]
Made of
Sunlight
Moonlight

[KIM]
Tomorrow will be the full moon
I can bring friends to bless our room
With paper unicorns and perfume
If you want me to

[CHRIS]
Unicorns? sure. . .

Before We Were Free

In the short historical novel Before We Were Free, Julia Alvarez writes of the Dominican Republic in the 1960s, a tumultuous time of government secret police, the dictator el Trujillo, brave rebels fighting for justice, family, immigration, and adolescence – all from a young girl’s perspective. A good, informative, moving read that made me cry and think. It made me think of the immigrant experience in America, of what countries “resort” to (embargoes, invasions) to “help” other countries, and how (if?) it is possible to attain peace without such measures. There is always a short and/or long-term cost, to being a bystander, indirectly interfering, and directly interfering.

Here is a quote from Julia Alvarez in the “About the Author” section:

“I believe stories have this power–they enter us, they transport us, they change things inside of us invisibly, so minutely, that sometimes we’re not even aware that we come out of a great book as a different person from the person we were when we began reading it.”

The Center for Victims of Torture

This seems like a really wonderful idea.

The Selville Statement on Violence

Spain, 1986

Human violence is not biological. Check it out!

Here’s an article on the subject. It begins like this:

“It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors … that war or any other violent behaviour is genetically programmed into our human nature … [and] that humans have a ‘violent brain’.”

These are the ringing words of the ‘Seville Statement on Violence’, fashioned by 20 leading natural and social scientists in 1986 as part of the United Nations International Year of Peace, and later adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It was written to counter the pessimistic view that violence and war are inevitable features of human life.

The decades since have not been kind to these cherished beliefs. A growing number of psychologists, neuroscientists and anthropologists have accumulated evidence that understanding many aspects of antisocial behaviour, including violence and murder, requires the study of brains, genes and evolution, as well as the societies those factors have wrought. Continue here.

Seeds of Peace

Here is a description of Seeds of Peace from the website:

What began in 1993 as a camp program with 46 Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian teenagers has expanded into a global operation with offices in over ten cities around the world and over 4,000 young leaders (“Seeds”) working for peace.

Eighteen years of conflict resolution programming has produced an impressive cadre of Seeds working in international affairs, politics, business, medicine, nonprofit and media.

UNESCO

“Since wars begin in the minds of people, it is in the minds of people that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” -UNESCO Constitution (1945)

Sunday Bloody Sunday

On January 30, 1972, British troops opened fire on unarmed and peaceful civilians in Derry, Ireland during a civil rights march. Riveting performance.

War/No More Trouble

Miss Sarajevo

Peace is not Passive

“Peace is not simply the absence of war. It is not a passive state of being. We must wage peace, as vigilantly as we wage war.” -Dalai Lama

Projects for Peace

I love the idea of philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis, who dedicated $1 million for 100 Projects for Peace. I also love that the word “peace” is not defined, and left to the individual(s) to creatively interpret. There are so many projects created by so many creative young people, and the best part is that the proposals and reports are accessible by clicking on the title of the project. Here is one college president’s opinion:

“…if the 100 Projects for Peace stimulated as much initiative across other campuses as it did here, it can be declared a success already – it is a wonderfully conceived catalyst for public service in the best sense of the word.”

Southern Sudan

Here is another more informative article on the situation in Sudan. An excerpt:

On Sunday, after decades of war and more than two million lives lost, southern Sudan will get the moment it has been yearning for, a referendum on independence. All signs point to the people here voting overwhelmingly for secession, and the largest country on the continent will then begin the delicate process of splitting in two.

The United States government has played a pivotal role in bringing this moment to fruition, pushing the northern and southern Sudanese to sign a peace treaty in 2005 that set the referendum in motion. A proud, new African country is about to be born, but it will step onto the world stage with shaky legs. As it stands now, southern Sudan is one of the poorest places on earth.

Can “the moment” really translate into all that is hoped for?

Best Peaceful Ex-President

Jimmy Carter?

Amnesty International

Amnesty International is a global movement of 2.8 million supporters, members and activists in more than 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of human rights, according to the website.  What a wealth of information! You can find information by country and topic, watch videos, and learn about how you can help, such as by writing letters standing up for individuals at risk. (i.e. Liu Xiaobao would be an example, as would someone convicted of the death penalty.) Here is Amnesty International’s blog.

PEN

PEN American Center is the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization, according to the website. PEN has many programs, including a Prison Writing Program, Translation Committee, and the World Voices Program. Here is the explanation for the Prison Writing Program:

Founded in 1971, the PEN Prison Writing Program believes in the restorative and rehabilitative power of writing, by providing hundreds of inmates across the country with skilled writing teachers and audiences for their work. The program seeks to provide a place for inmates to express themselves freely with paper and pen and to encourage the use of the written word as a legitimate form of power. The program sponsors an annual writing contest, publishes a free handbook for prisoners, provides one-on-one mentoring to inmates whose writing shows merit or promise, conducts workshops for former inmates, and seeks to get inmates’ work to the public through literary publications and readings.

I believe that prisons need to be more related to peace in the rehabilitative sense, not only in the sense of punishment. Three Strikes, mandatory minimums, the “war on drugs,” and the tough political stance that politicians too often embrace must end. Putting people in boxes is not the answer.

Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry has a wonderful blog featuring his photography from around the world. Here are a few quotes of his:

There is nothing more gratifying than helping people whom I have photographed because most often, it is impossible to locate them again.

I have always been interested in the ways that people around the world share things in common. All of those things remind us of what the human condition is really about.

What I Heard About Iraq in 2005

Oranges and Peanuts for Sale by Eliot Weinberger has a powerful section on Iraq called “What I Heard About Iraq in 2005”. Here are just a few of the many excerpts (which I think I am allowed to post, as they should be in the public domain as far as I know):

I heard a man who had been in Abu Ghraib prison say: “The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house.”

Lieutenant General James Mattis: “It is a lot of fun to fight in Iraq…You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. I like brawling.”

Monthly coverage on ABC, NBC, and CBS combined went from 388 minutes (2003) to 274 (2004) to 166 (2005).

Devout Christian in Iraq: “I said a prayer, stood up, and gunned them all down.”

Bush compared his War on Terror with Lincoln’s war against slavery.

Journalist: “Do you think that the insurgence is getting harder now to defeat militarily?”

Bush: “No, I don’t think so. I think they’re being defeated. And that’s why they continue to fight.

I’ve heard Condoleeza Rice speak about a “generational commitment” in Iraq.

Bush: “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of capitulate the propaganda.”

I heard that US troops had killed the #2 man in al-Qaeda in Iraq. I heard that US troops had killed another man who was the #2 in al-Qaeda in Iraq. I heard that US troops had killed yet another man who was the #2 in al-Qaeda in Iraq.

I heard that the US military was actively recruiting in Latin America, offering citizenship in exchange for service. I heard that Hispanic-Americans make up 9.5% of the actively enlisted, but 17.5% of those given the most dangerous assignments.

John Bolton, the new US ambassador to the United Nations: “There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power in the world – and that is the US – when it suits our interest and when we can get others to go along.”

Abdul Henderson, a former Marine corporal: “We were firing into small towns. You see people just running, cars going, guys falling off bikes. It was just sad. You just sit there and look through your binos and see things blowing up, and you think, man they have no water, living in the third world, and we’re just bombing them to hell. Blowing up buildings, shrapnel tearing people to shreds.”

I heard that the US was now spending $195 million a day on the war and that the cost had already exceeded, by $50 billion, US expenses in all of World War I. I heard that $195 million would provide 12 meals a day to every starving child on earth.

Thanks to this blogger (who actually has the entire essay on the blog) I copied and pasted this list. I feel compelled to include it because it really makes torture more tangible, more of a reality than vague, half-formed, media-influenced, propaganda-influenced theories of the cruel and unknown capabilities of humans.

I heard that a human rights organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams, was distributing a questionnaire to inmates released from Iraqi prisons. Those surveyed were asked to check ‘yes’ or ‘no’ after each question:

Stripped of your clothing (nude)?
Beaten by hand (punches)?
Beaten by stick or rod?
Beaten by cables, wires or belts?
Held at gunpoint?
Hooded?
Had cold water poured on you?
Had a rope tied to your genitalia?
Called names, insults?
Threatened or touched by dogs?
Dragged by rope or belt?
Denied prayer or wudhu [ablution]?
Forced to perform sexual acts?
Were you raped or sodomised?
Did someone improperly touch your genitalia?
Did you witness any sexual acts while in detention?
Did you witness any rapes of men, women or children?
Urinated on or made to touch faeces, or had faeces thrown at you?
Denied sleep?
Denied food?
Witnessed any deaths?
Did you witness any torture or mistreatment to others?
Forced to wear woman’s clothes? [Question for men only]
Were you burned or exposed to extreme heat?
Exposed to severe cold?
Subjected to electric shock?
Forced to act like a dog?
Forced in uncomfortable positions for a
lengthy period of time?
Forced to stand or sit in a painful manner for lengthy periods of time?
Lose consciousness?
Forced to hit others?
Hung by feet?
Hung by hands or arms?
Threatened to have family killed?
Family members detained?
Witnessed family members tortured?
Forced to sign anything?
Photographed?