Justin's blog

Peace Without Borders - historic peace concert held today

Mar
16

Tens of thousands of people converged today on the border between Colombia and Venezuela for a free concert called Peace Without Borders, held as a call for peace after the region’s worst diplomatic crisis in decades. The concert featured some of the biggest names in Latin American music, and was organized by Colombian rock star Juanes, who said he wanted the event to ease tensions and promote good relations. It was intended to send a message to the leaders of the two countries to give peace a chance.

"The place we chose is something symbolic. It does not mean that this is intended to promote peace between Colombia and Venezuela only. The border means the border of all countries," explained Juanes. "It would have been much more practical and simple to do it in a city, but the border is a symbol of peace between all countries. And this message is for everyone, all the countries in Latin America and the U.S. as well."

The artists and many of the attendees dressed in white in a show of cross-national solidarity. The concert took place on the Simon Bolivar bridge linking Cucuta, Colombia, and San Antonio del Tachira, Venezuela, surrounded by white flags. Children’s choruses from both countries started the concert, with each artist performing three songs and then joining together for several songs in the finale.

"It’s not that a song is going to change people. But music becomes an excuse to send a message, that we’re all here together building peace, that we are here as citizens and this is what we want, and we have to be heard. I think the governments have to understand and listen. We don’t want to get involved in conflicts between people," said Juanes.

"Peace is the most important thing we have and we have to fight for it."




 

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The peace sign turns 50 years old

Feb
21

It is inspiring how quickly the symbol created for nuclear disarmament has spread around the world as the "peace symbol", becoming one of the most recognized symbols on earth. It seems to show a huge demand for expressions of peace, especially after the World Wars. People everywhere identify with the concept of peace, and feel a need to express that concept universally. There has never been that desire to have a symbol for war, which seems to reflect people's basic preference for peace.

The "peace symbol" was designed on February 21, 1958 by Gerald Holtom in England. The symbol is the composite semaphore signal of flags for the letters "N" and "D" standing for Nuclear Disarmament ("N" is two flags held down at a 45 degree angle, and "D" is one flag up and one flag down). The symbol was introduced at the Aldermaston March, the first action of the newly formed Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). The "Disarmament Symbol" made its public debut on April 4, 1958, in front of 5,000 people gathered in London to show support for the Ban the Bomb movement.



They came to demonstrate against Britain's first hydrogen bomb tests. The Cold War was in full swing and Britain had just carried out its first hydrogen bomb test at Christmas Island in the Pacific. They assembled at Trafalgar Square, and then thousands walked to the town of Aldermaston, site of an atomic weapons research plant being built.

It was a very socially mixed, musical affair. Musicians kept up the marchers' spirits by playing their instruments, a key role in this historic event. Over the next four days, the marchers braved rain and snow to march over 50 miles. By the time they reached Aldermaston, they had grown to a procession of marchers a mile long.

 


Gerald Holtom was a professional artist and graduate of the Royal College of Arts in London. He was one of many intellectuals in Britain during the 1950's who were deeply disturbed by witnessing the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then watching in disbelief as their own government, despite being in a time of post-war material hardship, raced to join the nuclear club.

The peace symbol was first drawn on home-made banners and ceramic badges. Although the symbol was originally designed only as a sign for nuclear disarmament, it quickly spread around the world and within ten years had become the international symbol of peace. It has deliberately never been copyrighted. Throughout the years it has taken on many different meanings, including freedom and unity.

Millions of people around the world, regardless of race or religious beliefs, have looked to the peace sign to unite them. It has become an enduring cultural icon. It is probably the most commonly used non-religious symbol of hope in the world, instantly recognized anywhere as the universal sign for peace. Quite an accomplishment for an image which, instead of being based on some famous existing object, was created from scratch to represent a common idea.

Unfortunately, after 50 years we live in a world no closer to nuclear disarmament than it was in 1958. In fact, it seems we are farther away than ever before. Although the world is currently filled with wars, the peace symbol is a reminder of how much people long for peace.

 





 


 

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Music and Peace

Sep
24

U.N. NAMES DANIEL BARENBOIM AS AN AMBASSADOR FOR PEACE

Marking the International Day of Peace, September 21, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named Daniel Barenboim as a Messenger of Peace to help raise global awareness of the world body's work and ideals.

Others named as Messengers of Peace were the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, the Japanese-American violinist Midori Goto and Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan, First Lady of Dubai, who is the first Arab woman to compete in equestrian events at the continental, world and Olympic levels. They join existing Messengers of Peace primatologist Jane Goodall, actor Michael Douglas, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Eli Wiesel, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

On his appointment, Barenboim said, "Music teaches us to express ourselves to the fullest whilst simultaneously listening to the other."

Daniel Barenboim has long used music to create peace. He was born in Argentina and raised in Israel and lived in Europe and America. In 1999, he and Palestinian-born writer and Columbia University professor Edward Said founded the West-Eastern Divan Workshop in the German city of Weimar. It involved talented young musicians between the ages of 14 and 25 from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and Israel. The idea was that they would come together to make music on neutral ground with the guidance of some of the world's best musicians. Mr. Barenboim chose two concertmasters for the orchestra, an Israeli and a Lebanese. There were some tense moments among the young players at first, but the young musicians worked and played in increasing harmony. It has since found a permanent home in Seville, Spain, where it has been based since 2002.

Edward Said passed away in 2003 but his partnership with Daniel Barenboim lives on through the West-Eastern Divan Workshop and Orchestra and through the Barenboim-Said Foundation, which promotes music and cooperation through projects targeted at young Arabs and Israelis.

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The Peace Train returns

Apr
27

Yusuf Islam, the musician formerly known as Cat Stevens, has quietly returned to music with a new album and concerts. Thirty years after the folk singer converted to Islam, changed his name and dropped out of music, calling it un-Islamic, he has picked up the guitar once more. He has reconciled pop music with his faith and wants to use it to spread a message of peace.

"When I come out now, I sound quite similar. For some people, it's a welcome return to the sound of my voice and my music," says Islam, who as Cat Stevens sold 60 million albums with songs like "Wild World" and "Peace Train".

He said there is interest in his music now because the "tremendous conflicts that have been created by extremists" have created a longing for the peaceful sounds and positive messages of his songs, old and new.


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Turning guns into guitars

Dec
12

The Battalion of Immediate Artistic Reaction is a group of Columbian musicians and political activists who are tired of Colombia's four-decade old civil war. They are committed not only to making music, but also making peace; by making positive changes for Colombia, reducing the violence, and teaching people to live together.

Cesar Lopez founded the organization in 2003, after the bombing of the El Nogal nightclub which killed 36 people in the capital's trendy Zona Rosa district. The unnecessary violence gave Lopez an idea. "We were playing our music on the streets near the club," says Lopez, "when I noticed that a soldier was holding his rifle the same way I was holding my guitar."

He then set out to convert used guns into musical instruments. "In the first one," explains Lopez, "the guitar isn't well integrated with the gun. But it's better now. The gun is in service to the guitar, which is the idea." Lopez gets the guns through an anti-land mine group connected to Colombia's peace commissioner's office. Most of the firing components are removed so it can no longer be fired. Then a guitar maker adds the fretboard, strings, and neck as well as an input for an electric amp.

Cesar Lopez is a classically-trained musician and composer who studied at Colombia's best conservatory, but instead of concert hall performances he chooses to play his music on the streets of Bogota. Using the Internet, the Battalion of Immediate Artistic Reaction mobilizes every time there is some kind of guerrilla attack in Bogota, heading out into the streets to serenade the victims with soothing music.
 

"Violence fears love because it is stronger," Lopez says.
"Violence fears my voice because it goes beyond death."


"What we want to create is an invitation to an attitude of change," he says. "The main idea is that weapons can be changed from an object of destructiveness to an object of constructiveness."

As the inventor of the escopetarra — his term for a rifle transformed into a guitar — Cesar Lopez breathes life into instruments of death. In response to the violence that has plagued his home in Bogota, Colombia, Lopez has discovered a way to channel this violence into "art, where creation triumphs over destruction."

Lopez’s home country, Colombia, has been plagued by civil war for the past five decades. Conflicts between the state, left-wing guerrillas, and shadowy ranks of for-hire paramilitaries have resulted in entrenched violence. Inspired to make his art part of the solution, Lopez created the escopetarra, a guitar that is made from an AK-47, the most used rifle in the world. As he says, “If the weapon, which was designed to kill, if its use can be changed, then why can’t humans change too?”

Cultures of Resistance made a short film about Cesar Lopez's work...



To learn more about Cesar Lopez and the Battalion of Immediate Artistic Reaction, and to hear some of their music, visit www.cesarlopez.org

 


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Music as a bridge to peace

Nov
29

In October 2005, a "DJ Summit" was held in Jerusalem to show the world that music can overcome differences and bridge cultural gaps. Entitled "Bridge for Peace", the party brought together three DJ's who came from cultures currently at war with one another.

The evening featured the house rhythms of Khalil Kamal from Ramallah in the West Bank, followed by the Arabic groove of Srulik Einhorn from Tel Aviv in Israel, and ended with the progressive house of Morad Kalice from Amman, Jordan. At a time when war has torn apart any political or social cooperation between their home countries, music served to connect them and enable them to see their similarities rather than their differences.

The summit was the idea of Srulik Einhorn, who is credited with helping to introduce Arabic electronic music to Tel Aviv's bars and clubs. After years of playing the music, he began making contact with DJ's in neighboring Arab countries. Einhorn visited Jordan where he met DJ Kalice, and attempted to bring him to a party in Tel Aviv. Kalice was initially refused entry, but eventually, the Interior Ministry issued a visa for Kalice to come to Israel. For the event, they chose the holy city of Jerusalem, and its largest club Haoman 17.

"It's a nice event of cooperation, and it's never been done in the region," said Einhorn. "Also, being in Jerusalem means doing it in the holy city to three religions."

During his performance, DJ Kalice displayed cellular text messages of encouragement from friends back in Jordan. "The message that I want to bring to the people is that music should bring people together," he said.

Khalil Kamal is Ramallah's leading DJ, but was born in Jerusalem. Being a DJ in the West Bank is not easy, and yet the 37 year old father of three has been performing for 11 years.

"It was the first time I was in such an atmosphere with a Jewish crowd. I was afraid that they wouldn't accept me because I'm an Arab. But they accepted everything I played," said DJ Khalil. "It wasn't only music. It was the only night that we felt there was no difference between Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian. We hope that they will feel that way on the street."

Because of travel restrictions and little publicity in East Jerusalem, there were mostly Israelis in the audience, many were soldiers on holiday. "It's putting the enemy in the DJ spot, and... he's not the enemy, he's just the guy spinning the records," said one attendee after leaving the club.

"We really enjoy performing together, and this allows the crowd to see that cooperation and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians is possible." said Srulik Einhorn.

DJ Srulik Einhorn and DJ Khalil will perform together again in London on the winter solstice in December 2006, at a party called "Bridge of Peace".

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Ecological Debt Day

Oct
09

Today is the day of the year when mankind over-exploits the world's resources - the day when we start living beyond our ecological means for the rest of the year.

The New Economics Foundation has calculated from research by the Global Footprint Network that the day when our global resource consumption surpasses a sustainable level falls on October 9th this year. The world has a certain quantity of natural resources that can sustainably be used up each year, today is the date at which this annual capacity is reached.

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Religions unite for peace

Apr
16

The First World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace, held in Brussels in January 2005, was an historic milestone in Jewish-Muslim dialogue. The Second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace took place on March 19-22, 2006 in Seville, Spain. Over 150 Imams and Rabbis, among the most influential Jewish and Moslem leaders in the world, gathered to focus upon: promoting dialogue between Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, creating an opportunity for religious leaders to use their influence in conflict resolution in various regions of the world, helping religious leaders to challenge fanatics who are misusing religion, and creating structures and initiatives to continue practical day-to-day work.

At the Second Congress, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, called for the creation of a world body with representatives from the major religious groups, a "United Nations of religious groups". The Imam of Gaza, Imad al-Faluji, said politicians lied but religious leaders had a different objective - to work towards a higher good. The imams and rabbis at the conference said the world is in crisis and it is time they acted to restore justice, respect, and peace. The delegates have made it very clear that now is the time for concrete initiatives.

Religious leaders of different communities across the world joined their voices to condemn all instrumentalisation of the name of God or his principals for the use of violence. In doing so, they have won back Godís word taken hostage by extremists, and brought the voice of unity capable of opening the path to more concrete solutions: the promotion of education and knowledge, including the teaching of peace. Yesterday, the Dalai Lama was in San Francisco at the invitation of Muslim leaders for a historic peace gathering, continuing the path towards a "United Nations of Religions" set at the recent Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace. The gathering is the first assembly of a "religious parliament" that will meet once or twice annually in countries throughout the world. The intent is for religious leaders to unite in dispelling misunderstanding and injustice that breed extremism. San Francisco was picked for the gathering because it was where the United Nations was founded. Imam Seyed Mehdi Khorasani invited the Dalai Lama, urging him to meet with religious leaders and scholars to "construct a strategy that will unite our voices and express our common goal to live in a world without violence." The Dalai Lama was joined by approximately 100 world-renowned scholars, teachers, and leaders of Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and other faiths who met with their Muslim and Buddhist counterparts and took part in the landmark discussion. The Organising Committee for the gathering said in a statement:

"Religious intolerance, and the violence that tragically attends it, have masqueraded as a legitimate expression of religious conviction and have grabbed the world stage from the majority voices of reason. Those attending this gathering want to rectify this imbalance as they are acutely aware that political and economic agendas, however disguised, have no place in religious practice; and they are committed to acting in their communities to promote compassion and counter divisiveness. Never before have so many of the world's prominent and influential religious leaders come together at one time for such an imperative and specific purpose. The message of peace and understanding that will emanate from this conference and the solidarity powerfully represented by these great and compassionate thinkers speaking in unison will help heal the world."

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Why peace?

Apr
04

Why peace? The simple answer is so we can divert our resources, energy, and attention away from war and to other issues... things like the environment, climate change, poverty, hunger, disease, the lack of education and access to information and information technology.

And what could we get if we decided to spend our money on something other than war?

Well, according to the highly respected Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stieglitz of Columbia University and Linda Biomes, who teaches management at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, the ultimate cost of the current Iraq war could go as high as $2 trillion. That figure appears in a paper released earlier this year, and it includes the cost of fighting the war now, caring for the wounded veterans of the war in future years, rebuilding a worn-out military, and other economic costs. Stieglitz and Biomes' estimate is based upon a U.S. deployment in Iraq that lasts until 2010. Under this scenerio, the United States military is spending $783 million a day, for seven years. This is more than the arms expenditures of all other nations combined.

A few months ago, Senator Edward Kennedy gave a moving statement on the Senate floor titled "The real cost of the Iraq war." It was an interesting look at what we could be spending our money on if we weren't at war. But Senator Kennedy used the then accepted figure of $195 million per day. Using the recent estimate of costs, the true cost of the Iraq war is over four times as much as the original figure. So to update the comparisons with a few examples...

One day in Iraq could provide health insurance coverage for one year to 1,523,600 uninsured children in America. One day in Iraq could employ 14,388 additional registered nurses for one year. One day in Iraq could pay for an increase of $13.36 per hour in the wages of every minimum wage worker in the country for a year. One day in Iraq could feed all of the starving children in the world today almost 18 times over!

Those are some really good reasons not to go to war.

As President Dwight Eisenhower observed in 1953... "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of laborers, the genius of its scientists, and the hopes of its children."

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Liberty goes Green

Apr
02

The Statue of Liberty in New York City's harbor has adopted renewable energy to help keep its torch lit. Starting this month, 100 percent of the electricity used by the Statue of Liberty will be offset by "green power".

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Vote for peace

Mar
25

The Peace Movement is becoming a political force that may effect the outcome of the next elections. A recent national poll shows that almost half of American voters agree with a pledge to vote for peace candidates. The pledge states: "I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression a public position in his or her campaign."

The national poll found that 45.9% of US voters agree - 20.1% strongly agree, and 25.8% somewhat agree - with the pledge. The poll was conducted by ICR Survey Research of Media, Pa., which also polls for ABC News, The Washington Post, and many corporations and research organizations.

The pledge is an educational project of the nonprofit Voters for Peace, to empower voters with the option of peace.

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Global opportunities

Mar
10
What difference can one website make? The World Peace Through Technology Organization has received visitors from around the world, including several at war with one another. If we could get these people talking to each other, maybe we could build a dialog between enemies. Here are some of the countries that have visited this website in the last month... United States, Australia, China, Great Britain, Vietnam, India, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Mexico, Germany, Japan, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Malaysia, Switzerland, Afghanistan, Turkey, Hungary, Trinidad and Tobago, Israel, Egypt, Norway, South Africa, Philippines, Peru, Jamaica, Pakistan, France, Italy, Poland, Mozambique, Lithuania, Kuwait, Lebanon, Thailand, Nepal, Singapore, Sweden, and the Russian Federation. Just imagine the possibilities.
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6.5 Billion People!

Mar
01

Our little planet just keeps getting more crowded, and more in need of a way to live together in peace and cooperation. On Saturday February 26th 2006, at 7:16 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the population on Earth reached 6.5 billion people. This is according to estimates, but who has time to go around the world counting everyone. And we are now adding 261 new people every minute around the world. An analysis by the International Programs Center at the U.S. Census Bureau points to another fact: some six years from now, on Oct. 18, 2012 at 4:36 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, the Earth will be home to 7 billion people.

According to estimates from the Population Reference Bureau...

In the year 1000, the world's population was 310 million. In the year 1900, the world's population was 1.6 billion. In the year 2050, the world's population will be an estimated 9 billion. As of 2002, there have been 106 billion people ever born.

Remarkably, despite many new developments over the years, one fact looks the same: Populations are growing most rapidly where such growth can be afforded the least.

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Celebrate Peace Day and help create a Department Of Peace

Jan
01

Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced historic legislation to create a cabinet level agency dedicated to peacemaking on July 11, 2001. "The time for peace is now," Congressman Kucinich said. "At the dawn of a new millennium, there is no better time to review age old challenges with new thinking that peace is not only the absence of violence, but the presence of a higher evolution of human awareness with respect, trust and integrity toward humankind. Our founding fathers recognized that peace was one of the highest duties of the newly organized free and independent states. But too often, we have overlooked the long-term solution of peace for instant gratification of war. This continued downward spiral of violence must stop to ensure that future generations will live in peace and harmony."

Kucinich's legislation to create a Department of Peace focuses on individual, group and national responsibilities of holding peace as an organizing principle. The Department of Peace will focus on nonmilitary peaceful conflict resolutions, prevent violence and promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights. A Peace Academy, similar to the five military service academies, would be created; its graduates dispatched to troubled areas around the globe to promote nonviolent dispute resolutions. "The challenges inherent in creating a Department of Peace are massive," said Congressman Kucinich. "But the alternatives are worse. Violence at home, in the schools, in the media, and between nations has dragged down humanity. It's time to recognize that traditional, militant objectives for peace are not working, and the only solution is to make peace the goal of a cabinet level agency." In addition, the first day of each year, January 1st will be designated as Peace Day in the United States and all citizens should be encouraged to observe and celebrate the blessings of peace and endeavor to create peace in the coming year.

SUMMARY OF DEPARTMENT OF PEACE LEGISLATION

Legislation introduced today by Congressman Dennis Kucinich to create a Department of Peace includes the following: Establish a cabinet-level department in the executive branch of the Federal Government dedicated to peacemaking and the study of conditions that are conducive to both domestic and international peace. Headed by a Secretary of Peace, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The mission of the Department shall: hold peace as an organizing principle; endeavor to promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights; strengthen nonmilitary means of peacemaking; promote the development of human potential; work to create peace, prevent violence, divert from armed conflict and develop new structures in nonviolent dispute resolution; and take a proactive, strategic approach in the development of policies that promote national and international conflict prevention, nonviolent intervention, mediation, peaceful resolution of conflict and structured mediation of conflict. The Department will create and establish a Peace Academy, modeled after the military service academies, which will provide a 4 year concentration in peace education. Graduates will be required to serve 5 years in public service in programs dedicated to domestic or international nonviolent conflict resolution. You can help make the Department of Peace a reality, and participate in an historic citizen lobbying effort to create a U.S. Department of Peace.

This legislation was introduced into the U.S. Senate (S. 1756) and re-introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 3760) in September of 2005. Visit the Peace Alliance for more information.

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