Peace Blogs

Nobody expected the Spanish revolution

May
23

The movement for change jumped across the Mediterranean Sea, landing in Spain on May 15th. That was the day that over a hundred thousand people throughtout Spain, led mostly by the youth, joined together to demand a real democracy and economic justice. There were demonstrations in Barcelona and Granada and over 50 cities. But the largest demonstration was in Madrid, where over 50,000 people marched from Plaza de Cibeles to Puerta del Sol, the central public plaza of the city.
Their motto was: "We are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers."


Inspired by events unfolding in the Middle East, the protesters decided to stay in Puerta del Sol and set up a camp, which would evolve into a community, and then a movement. Some even called the occupation "Yes We Camp", in reference to the American election of Obama which also had inspired people around the world. The protests grew, especially thanks to student groups and Facebook and Twitter, beyond anyone's expectations....

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The World Peace Game

Apr
27

Musician, teacher, filmmaker, and game designer, John Hunter has dedicated his life to helping children realize their full potential. His own life story is one of a never-ending quest for harmony. In India as a student, inspired by Ghandi's philosophy, he began to think about the role of the schoolteacher in creating a more peaceful world.

Hunter created an interactive teaching model called the World Peace Game. He begins the game by telling his students, "I'm so sorry, boys and girls, but the truth is we have left this world to you in such a sad and terrible shape, and we hope you can fix it for us... and maybe this game will help you do it."


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Using technology to reinvent education

Mar
10
Salman Khan, creator of the Khan Academy, is using technology to revolutionalize education; humanizing the classroom, and providing teachers with tools and extensive information to help them better reach students. Khan spoke at a recent TED talk, where he said, "What you see emerging is this notion of a global, one world classroom. And that's essentially what we are trying to do." He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script - give students video lectures to watch at home, and do "homework" in the classroom with the teacher and other students available to help.

Salman Khan: "Let's use video to reinvent education"


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Revolution 2.0

Mar
07
In TED's first talk of 2011, Al Jazeera's director-general Wadah Khanfar shares his view on the historic uprisings happening in the Middle East. As democratic revolutions led by tech-empowered young people sweep the Arab world, Wadah Khanfar shares a profoundly optimistic view of what's happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and beyond. He spoke on March 1, 2011 in Long Beach, California, where he discussed how we can "imagine a future that is magnificent and peaceful and tolerant."...

Wadah Khanfar: "The future has arrived... and the future is now."



Another 2011 TED talk was with Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who helped jumpstart Egypt's democratic revolution. Ghonim is an Internet activist and computer engineer who started an influential Facebook page that galvanized voices of protest in Egypt. In early 2011, he was detained by the Egyptian government for 11 days. After he was released, he became a leading fugure in the youth revolution that forced Hosni Mubarak from power. Speaking in Cairo, he tells the inside story of the past two months, when everyday Egyptians showed that "the power of the people is stronger than the people in power."

"Our revolution is like Wikipedia. Everyone is contributing content. You don't know the names of the people contributing the content. Revolution 2.0 in Egypt was exactly the same. Everyone contributing small pieces, bits and pieces. We drew this whole picture of a revolution. And no one is the hero in that picture." Ghonim explained on 60 Minutes....

Wael Ghonim: "This was Revolution 2.0. No one was a hero, because everyone was a hero."

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The Peace Corps turns 50

Mar
01
Today is the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy called on Americans to give two years of their lives in service to others as Peace Corps volunteers. Since then, over 200,000 volunteers have served in 139 countries. Today is also the launch of "Peace Corps Month", with over 700 events around the world.

President Kennedy established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship. The Peace Corps' goals are to help the people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women, to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served, and to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

While volunteers continue to do important work like bringing clean water to communities and teaching children, today's volunteers also work in areas like HIV/AIDS awareness, business development, and information technology. Volunteers provide technical training and support to groups and organizations that want to make better use of information and communications technology. They introduce people to the computer as a tool to increase efficiency and communication and to "leap frog" stages of development. Volunteers teach basic computer literacy skills, (e.g., word-processing, spreadsheets, basic accounting software, Internet use, and webpage development) and they introduce host communities to e-commerce, distance learning, and geographic information systems.
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The music of revolution

Feb
28
The Al Jazeera network aired a video on February 24, 2011 called "The Music of Revolution". Journalist Riz Khan interviewed musician Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, about his latest song "My People" which is inspired by the popular uprisings calling for freedom and change in the Arab world. The song was recorded in a studio 100 meters from the Berlin Wall, which fell in 1989 paving the way for the unification of Germany and the collapse of communism in Europe.

The video asks, "How can musicians invoke the spirit of rebellion?" and "How important is music as an instrument of social change?" They also discuss social networks and the way new technologies are helping to create change in the Middle East. Yusuf explains, "It shows you the incredible power the internet can be when it's used correctly for ideas."


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The wave of change reaches Wisconsin

Feb
28

Inspired perhaps by what was happening in Egypt, the spark for Wisconsin's protests came on February 11th, when Gov. Scott Walker threatened to call in the National Guard to crack down on workers upset that their bargaining rights were being taken away. Labor and progressive groups were driven to action, and within a week there were over 100,000 protesters filling the streets of Madison, and occupying the state capitol building. It proved to be bigger than anyone would have expected.


Maine State Senator Diane Russell visited the demonstration, saying "I can't explain it, but there is something magical happening in Madison. I was awe struck."...

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Mainstreaming non-violence

Feb
12

The following is part of a blog post by Ken Butigan for the website Waging Nonviolence, entitled "Another Step Toward Mainstreaming Nonviolence". Ken Butigan is the director of Pace e Bene, an Oakland, California-based non-profit organization fostering peace through education, community, and action.

"The movement that ended President Hosni Mubarak’s thirty year autocratic rule not only has created a spectacular breakthrough for Egyptian democracy, it has bequeathed a priceless gift to the rest of us in every part of the planet. For eighteen days the Egyptian people carried out an unarmed revolution with determination, creativity, and a daring willingness to risk. They marched, they improvised, they prayed, they connected with one another. Most of all, they stayed put, and invited the nation to join them.

Faced with a corrupt and dictatorial police state, such a movement might have been tempted to wage armed struggle. Instead, they reached for, experimented with, and remained largely steadfast about another way: non-violent people power. Hence the tactics they chose: Massive demonstrations, brazen and ubiquitous use of social media, befriending the army, work stoppages, and eventually the call for a general strike. Non-violent people power operates on the assumption that systems of violence and injustice are not absolute and implacable. Rather, they are kept in place by pillars of support. These props include the police and army; the media; economic forces; cultural and ideological structures; and the general population. The job of a non-violent resistance movement is to remove this support. Key to this process is alerting, educating, and mobilizing a growing number of people throughout the nation or society to withdraw their consent, and to overcome their fear of the consequences for doing so.

The gift that the Egyptian people have placed in each of our hands is the crystal clear example of the power of ordinary people to unleash seismic social change. What makes the accomplishment in Egypt especially valuable to the rest of the world at this time, however, is that (given the determination of the demonstrators, the stubbornness of the regime, and the ubiquity of social media and other technological innovations) many of us were able to follow this struggle step by step in real time and to therefore see in minute detail how this kind of monumental change happens. We were able to see this campaign in slow motion: the initial call, the gathering momentum, the series of repressive attacks, the galvanizing power of Days of Prayer, the lulls, the unexpected developments, the government’s ineffective sticks and even more ineffective carrots, the wave of strikes that began to spread across the country...

This eighteen day saga riveted the world. It offered us a new, three-dimensional awareness of our power to make change through determined, non-violent action. And it offers us a glimmer of hope as we stand at a monumental crossroads in human history. In a time of virtually permanent war, growing poverty, threats to civil liberties, ecological devastation, and many other problems, humanity faces the challenge and opportunity to choose powerful and creative non-violent alternatives. We can continue to opt for the devastating spiral of violence and injustice, or we can build civil societies where the dignity of all is respected and the needs of all are met. True peace and long-term human survival depend on this.

Egypt gives us a clear and radiant example of the non-violent option. For eighteen days, Egypt "mainstreamed non-violence". Mainstreaming non-violence does not mean creating a utopia where conflict, violence, and injustice do not exist. Instead, it is the process of nurturing a culture that advances non-violent options for addressing complicated challenges in ways that are neither violent nor passive. We have much to learn from this powerful experiment in this peaceful and determined struggle for justice.

All of us owe debt of gratitude to the pro-democracy movement in Egypt for this monumental gift that reveals for people everywhere the power and possibilities of non-violent change in a world wracked by violence and injustice."

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Mythical Realms

Feb
11

The World Peace Through Technology Organization presents the 12th annual How Weird Street Faire on Sunday May 1, 2011 in downtown San Francisco! The celebration of peace takes place from Noon to 8pm, centered at the Paxorium - in the intersection of Howard and 2nd Streets - or more specifically 37° 47' 12.4" N, 122° 23'53.7" W.

This year's theme is "Mythical Realms", which represents our collective ideas about life, society, and culture. What would a real "place of peace" look like? Come to the faire and find out. The Paxorium will be surrounded by nine city blocks filled with art, music, performances, and creativity... along with a great collection of vendors and food. Expect all the unique weirdness of San Francisco, and thousands of people from around the world in colorful costumes....

For more information about How Weird visit www.HowWeird.org


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Christians protecting Muslims in Egypt and Reflections on a revolution

Feb
04

Christians put their own lives at risk protecting Muslims praying in Tahrir Square in Cairo amid violence between protesters and Egyptian President Mubarak's supporters. And in Alexandria,  tens of thousands of people have gathered in the centre of town, while Christians and others not performing Friday prayers formed a "human chain" around those praying to protect them from any potential disruptions. During the protests and popular uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government that started January 25th, Muslims had been attacked during prayers. The Muslims, while bowing in prayer, had faced water cannons, tear gas, stones being thrown, and direct attacks. The Christian community responded by waging a campaign of protection and support....
 


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World Interfaith Harmony Week

Feb
01

Febuary 1-7 is World Interfaith Harmony Week, advancing inter-religious dialogue as a way to promote harmony between all people. It features conferences, workshops, seminars, lectures, and hundreds of events on every continent. Various U.N. agencies are cooperating to discuss effective strategies to foster mutual understanding between faiths and cultures.

On September 23, 2010, King Abdullah II of Jordan introduced the concept of World Interfaith Harmony Week at the Plenary Session of the 65th U.N. General Assembly in New York. In his speech he said, "It is essential to resist forces of division that spread misunderstanding and mistrust, especially among peoples of different religions." In October of 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to mark World Interfaith Harmony Week annually during the first week of February. King Abdullah has long been known for his peace initiatives. Under his patronage, the Common Word initiative has brought together the highest ranking Christian and Muslim leaders from around the world on the basis of the two greatest commandments of Loving God, and Loving the Neighbor.

The objectives behind the World Interfaith Harmony Week, in the words of the author of the resolution, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, are:

   1. To co-ordinate and unite the efforts of all the interfaith groups doing positive work with one focused theme at one specific time annually, thereby increasing their impact.

   2. To Harness and utilise the collective might of the world’s second-largest infrastructure (that of places of worship — the largest being that of education) specifically for peace and harmony in the world: inserting, as it were, the right “software” into the world’s religious “hardware”.

   3. To permanently and regularly encourage the silent majority of preachers to declare themselves for peace and harmony.

Qamar-ul Huda, of the Religion and Peacemaking Center of Innovation, spoke on a panel called "The Role of faith-based organizations and interfaith initiatives in Development, Reconciliation and Peacebuilding” sponsored by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and as a part of World Interfaith Harmony Week. Huda spoke about the ways in which Muslim religious leaders are working in the areas of conflict prevention, mediation, and conflict transformation. Huda said religious leaders and religious organizations involved in peacemaking are operating from their respective faith traditions to support personal, communal, and relational transformations. Some of these peacemaking efforts include using innovative platforms to explain misunderstandings, and using the arts to express mutual respect.

From Jerusalem to Malappuram in India, from Amman in Jordan to Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, from Sedona in the United States to Newcastle in Australia, and a myriad of other places, special events were held to shine the spotlight on the need for interfaith understanding. In Guyana, one observance for World Interfaith Harmony Week was a "Harmony Walk", followed by a religious programme and cultural show. The event included leaders from the Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Baha’i and Rastafarian faiths. Those gathered were treated to songs and dance, as well as readings from the different groups.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, explained that "Dialogue would bring us mutual enrichment and help us overcome prejudices passed on to us by previous generations."


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Muslims protecting Christians in Egypt

Jan
06

Yesterday was the Eastern Orthodox Christmas Eve for Egypt's Coptic community. Across Egypt, Muslims came out to support their Christian neighbors, risking their own lives to protect a religious minority. It was an inspiring sign of unity and support, at a time when religious conflict threatens the region and the world....



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The alternative economy of compassion

Dec
22
"Capitalism is only kept going by this army of anti-capitalists, who constantly exert their powers to clean up after it, and at least partially compensate for its destructiveness. Behind the system we all know, in other words, is a shadow system of kindness, the other invisible hand. Much of its work now lies in simply undoing the depredations of the official system. Its achievements are often hard to see or grasp.

We tend to think revolution has to mean a big in-the-streets, winner-take-all battle that culminates with regime change, but in the past half century it has far more often involved a trillion tiny acts of resistance that sometimes cumulatively change a society so much that the laws have no choice but to follow after.

Another world is not just possible... it's always been here.

Who wouldn't agree that our society is capitalistic, based on competition and selfishness? As it happens, however, huge areas of our lives are also based on gift economies, barter, mutual aid, and giving without hope of return (principles that have little or nothing to do with competition, selfishness, or scarcity economics). Think of the relations between friends, between family members, the activities of volunteers or those who have chosen their vocation on principle rather than for profit.

The official economic arrangements and the laws that enforce them ensure that hungry and homeless people will be plentiful amid plenty. The shadow system provides soup kitchens, food pantries, and giveaways, takes in the unemployed, evicted, and foreclosed upon, defends the indigent, tutors the poorly schooled, comforts the neglected, provides loans, gifts, donations, and a thousand other forms of practical solidarity, as well as emotional support."...
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Sustainable Peace

Dec
21

As Vandana Shiva has said, "if we get rid of the pollution in the human mind they will get rid of the pollution of the environment." That "pollution" is the idea that we are separate, material beings locked in competition for scarce and ever scarcer resources. This quest for resources in fact constitutes a feedback loop in which the pursuit of material goods at all costs merely renders those materials more elusive, thus requiring even more relentless pursuit.

Gandhi once wrote that "we are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of non-violence."

It is precisely to make these discoveries and apply them to apparently diverse fields like human rights, militarism, poverty, and the environment that we take as our work. The eternal human desire for peace can only succeed if it strives to attain this transcendent telos both "on earth" and "with earth" as inherently interconnected aims. Today we are faced with paradigmatic crises including perpetual warfare and runaway climate change, yet in this crucial moment may we likewise rise to meet the unique challenge of understanding these as related phenomena whose mutual resolution promises an opportunity to truly usher in an era of peace and prosperity.

From the article "War and Planet Earth: Toward a Sustainable Peace" by Randall Amster and Michael Nagler for Waging Nonviolence. Randall Amster teaches Peace Studies at Prescott College, and is the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. Michael Nagler is the co-chair of the Peace & Justice Studies Association.


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The Cosmic Dance

Mar
19

The theme of the 2010 How Weird Street Faire is "Bollyweird: The Cosmic Dance".

The Cosmic Dance represents the movement of the universe, from the galaxies and planets, to all life, to subatomic particles.

According to Hindi mythology, Shiva is the Cosmic Dancer who performs his divine dance to continue the unfolding of all existence, and create harmony in the universe. The Cosmic Dance of Shiva is called “Ananda Tandava”, meaning the Dance of Bliss. It symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, as well as the daily rhythm of night and day.

"Dancing is an art in which the artist and the art created are one and the same, thought to evoke the oneness of God and creation." Explains Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy in "The Dance of Siva". Shiva's dance is "the clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of."

According to Fritzof Capra, “the Dance of Shiva symbolizes the basis of all existence. At the same time, Shiva reminds us that the manifold forms in the world are not fundamental, but illusory and ever-changing. Modern physics has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifest in the turn of the seasons and in the birth and death of all living creatures, but is also the very essence of inorganic matter."

"According to quantum field theory, the dance of creation and destruction is the basis of the very existence of matter. Modern physics has thus revealed that every subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance; a pulsating process of creation and destruction. For the modern physicists then, Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter, the basis of all existence and of all natural phenomena.”

In a spirit of cross-cultural appreciation, this year's How Weird Street Faire will feature music and art from India and beyond. The faire will end with our version of the “Cosmic Dance”. We will attempt to break the world’s record for the Largest Bollywood Dance, a tribute to Bollywood’s role as the largest film genre in the world.

This year's center intersection, the faire's legendary urban crop circle, with feature a Temple to Shiva and the Cosmic Dance. In the middle will be a two meter tall statue of Shiva Nataraja, the Lord of Dance.

On June 18, 2004, a two meter tall statue of the Indian deity Shiva Nataraja, was unveiled at CERN, the European Center for Research in Particle Physics in Geneva. The statue was given to CERN by the Indian government to celebrate the research center's long association with India.

In choosing the image of Shiva Nataraja, the Indian government acknowledged the profound significance of the metaphor of Shiva's dance for the cosmic dance of subatomic particles, which is observed and analyzed by CERN's physicists. CERN represents the cutting edge of technology, from creating the World Wide Web, to operating the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest scientific experiment.

The plaque on the statue concludes with a quote from Fritjof Capra, "Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic dance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art, and modern physics."

Raising our consciousness and understanding leads to peace.

Shiva's dance at CERN, a global center of technological innovation...



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