Building a Better World

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Father Larry Wright (pictured centre above), Religious Affairs Advisor at the Next Century Foundation, speaking at the Aramea Foundation:

The blade the bullet and the bomb know no morality, they have one purpose only, to kill and injure. Those who wield these weapons of destruction have choices; they are moral beings who have chosen the way of violence. This choice is informed by their beliefs and their beliefs informed by their chosen cause or ideology; or both.

If choosing the way of violence is based upon an extreme ideology then they have adopted an uncompromising  view of the world and how it should be ordered which requires them, and their co-believers, to spare nothing or no one in pursuit of their ultimate aims; barbarity is unleased, violence spirals and any semblance of humanity abandoned; they appropriate for themselves the appearance of an irresistible force. However, as in the paradoxical proposition “What will happen if an irresistible force meets and immoveable object?” nothing in nature is absolutely irresistible and nothing is absolutely immovable. In the gritty realties of power struggles action and reaction happen by degrees and each mirrors the worst aspects of the other and thus violence breeds violence “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” (From the Christian Gospel)

Am I describing Daesh? I could also be describing Cromwell’s Model Army in the England of 1640s or Facist regimes in Europe in the 1930s and 40s. All believed themselves invincible all were ultimately vanquished. Their legacy was and is more violence. Violence breeds violence.

(Quote) “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that”. Martin Luther King Jnr

Plato said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

Violence breeds violence and its siblings are: vengeance, reprisal and retaliation. Governments, as well as individuals, adopt these siblings and unleash them at will.  To break the spiral of violence we must contend with these forces of vengeance and violence at their root cause.

All wars end. Either through attrition, intervention, diplomacy or capitulation conflicts cease. But the end of conflict is rarely the beginning of a sustainable peace; too often the end of fighting is merely the impression of peace when in reality it is an armed truce vacillating between possible futures.

For years, America the UK and their allies have appropriated to themselves the mantle of a global, interventionist morality. This policy has been seen by many as either little too late or at worst disastrous for all concerned. For the first time in modern history the consequence of this deeply flawed morality has brought the victims of intervention, in seemingly overwhelming numbers, onto their shores and into their streets. Traumatised, at times half dead, physically and psychologically scarred, starving and despairing they are as much the West’s casualties as any of our armed forces killed or injured in recent wars. Violence breeds violence.

From the violence suffered by traumatised refugees coming to our shores, a new violent reaction is being embodied in the resurgence of reactionary, populist political forces in America, Europe and elsewhere. The populist slogans they scream and chant are a repudiation of the so called liberal, democratic values which have dominated international discourse since 1989. These new forces are indifferent or opposed to any assertion of international morality. They will use violence (rhetorically and actual) to secure their nation’s borders, engender a patriotic siege mentality and practice isolationism from global intervention; rather than try and do intervention better they prefer not to do it at all.

In the Levant, Western influence has waned and is seen as fatally flawed, other regional powers have filled the vacuum  but they have historical and ideological agendas which are inimical to the West.

The West, meanwhile, is verging on economic bankruptcy; the UN is also deprived of funds and in thrall to the Security Council, the new American regime is inexperienced and lacks credibility and Europe is fragmenting as a political project. Western intervention seems to be reduced to targeted military strikes in the Levant and anxiety about trade deals elsewhere. The West seems gripped by a moral inertia. So from where will arise new energy for global conciliation and rapprochement come? Russia, China, Turkey, India? Are we in a diplomatic winter?

(Quote from Quran)  “There is no good in most of their secret talks save (except) (in) him who orders Sadaqah (charity in Allah’s Cause), or Maa‘roof (Islamic Monotheism and all the good and righteous deeds which Allah has ordained), or conciliation between mankind; and he who does this, seeking the good Pleasure of Allah, We shall give him a great reward” (Quran, Surah An-Nisaa, 114)

If the Great Reward goes to the conciliators of this world (“Blessed are the Peace makers” Quote from Christian scriptures ) then we need an uprising of peacemakers and an army of reconcilers. (The Aramea Foundation, The Next Century Foundation, Initiatives of Change?). We need a coalition of the willing who will work tirelessly and sacrificially for Peace; demanding a renewal of ethically based foreign policies, a renewal of internationalism, reaching out to enemies and bringing light to the darkest places.

As a person of faith I know faith’s shortcomings but I also know its power to inspire and transform lives and situations and to give vision and hope to humanity in its days of darkness:  “To turn spears into pruning hooks and where people will study war no more” (Quote from Jewish Scriptures).

Faith must play a significant role in post conflict Syria and Iraq, Syria and Iraq will also need all the goodwill that can be mustered and a Marshall type plan of economic and civic reconstruction unprecedented in modern times. This is the cost of the West’s repentance and the East’s intransigence and the Middle East’s incoherence.

Within any plans for the possible futures in the war torn areas of the Levant, their must be a plan for  the future of Jerusalem, that city set on a hill which is the rallying point for so much human longing for God.

May we find new hope, new vision and new determination to shape a future where it is not the dead who see an end to war, but the living.

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Indonesia’s religious intolerance increasing

Indonesia used to be one of the most religiously moderate countries in the world. With just over 207 million Indonesians identifying themselves as Muslim, the country hosts the world’s largest Muslim community. However, in recent years things have changed. And the Indonesian government has failed to protect its Christians, Shia and Ahmadiyya, from an increase in levels of harassment.

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Protests against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Christian governor of Jakarta, 31 March 2017.

The majority of Indonesian Muslims remain moderate and are appalled by the increasing religious divisions facing their country.

However Indonesia’s mainstream Muslim population struggles to speak out against members of their own community who persecute minorities. And the government that takes little interest in intervention.

Indonesia’s moderate Muslim population must stand up for Indonesia’s minority groups. Indonesians must find it in their hearts to express compassion for those who are becoming the victims of intolerance.

The World’s Hidden Refugees

Over 65 million people have been displaced from their homes worldwide of whom a substantial proportion have had to cross international borders and have become refugees forced to flee their countries because of persecution, war, and/or violence.

We are swift to remember the strength and courage of refugees and their families. By raising awareness and standing in solidarity with those displaced, we show support to the individuals and families forced to flee persecution under life-threatening circumstances.

However, we often fail to remember those who have been unsuccessful in fleeing persecution – those unable to become refugees. There are a large number of people, living across many different countries including but not limited to, those in Syria and Gaza, who are unable to become refugees. The true number of refugees would be significantly higher had those who are living under persecution, war and violence been successful in fleeing.

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Children walking the ruined streets of Biet Hanoun, Gaza Strip 2015

In conjunction with remembering those who have been successful in fleeing, the profile of the situation of those unable to leave must also be raised. We must raise awareness of the situation of all refugees, hidden and visible, throughout the world– both those who are successful in fleeing and those who are not.

London

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The following statement, which we have paraphrased slightly but which we endorse, was issued by Seyed Sadreddin Safavi of the International Peace Studies Centre in condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London (to view the original statement in full click here):

The recent barbaric terrorist attacks in London and Manchester are the work of inhumane individuals. These acts of terror by individuals masquerading as Muslims, are against the very letter and spirit of the Qur’an and Islamic law. In Islamic law neither in peace nor war, is it permissible to kill civilians, or cause terror and chaos in society. Their crime is a crime against humanity.

We are filled with sorrow and grief for the victims of these heinous crimes, and honor the men and women in uniform who risk their lives in combating these heinous acts of terror, and admire the cohesion and spirit of unity in British society who do not give in to terror, and answer the terrorist call for division, chaos and hate, with unity, order and love.

The Muslim community in Britain and across Europe must rise up against the savagery perpetuated by those who claim to be Muslim but their actions reveal their evil nature.

  1. First, Peace loving Muslim communities must vocally condemn these acts, and vocally and in action oppose those who support the cancer of terror that has spread across the globe by Wahabbism.
  2. Second, Muslim communities must take back the mosques in their local area from the preachers of hate who poison the mind of our youth.
  3. Third, as a community we must use social media to combat the campaign of hate and terror of Daesh (ISIS) and like minded groups.

Our social media campaign must work on two general fronts:

First to promote the true Islam, which is the Islam of peace and dialogue, the Islam of stability and respect for differences of opinion, and teach our youth that the savage ideology of Daesh and all those who support it or hold the same world view is opposed to Islam and condemned by Islamic law and the majority of Muslims. To do this the works of Muslim thinkers in the West such as Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr is of great use and benefit.

Second, Daesh and its followers aim to divide our communities across Britain, they aim to cause an atmosphere of Islamophobia and hate, we must confront this in our social media campaign and inform our fellow citizens in Europe that we stand side by side in opposing these barbaric terrorist movements and acts.

We will stand united in the face of terror, we will say no to hate, and we will defeat the ideology of hate which has taken the lives of thousands of individuals from all walks of life and all faiths across the globe.

by Seyed Sadreddin Safavi

Manchester

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It was with profound sadness that we heard the news of the Manchester bombing. This act of cruelty was all the more atrocious because it deliberately targeted the young and vulnerable.

Those who set themselves apart by committing acts of extreme brutality, and those who support them, have often been warned of the consequences of their actions.

Violence spawns violence.

Anger spawns anger.

Hate spawns hate.

Our response, however, will be different. We cherish our values. We stand for compassion. We stand for sincerity. We stand for loyalty. We stand for hope. We stand for an inclusive society rather than a small minded world based on exclusivity. We stand with all of good heart. We stand together, strengthened, not cowed, by this piteous act.

This act redoubles our resolve to protect our vulnerable, most particularly the very young and the very old, the weak and the dispossessed – And to prevent them from all harm. And in so doing build a world founded on love and fellowship and complete freedom from fear.

Indonesia’s rising religious intolerance towards minorities

For many years, Indonesia has been known as one of the most religiously moderate countries in the world. With just over 207 million Indonesians identifying themselves as Muslim, the country plays host to the largest proportion of the world’s Muslim community. However, in more recent years the country has been under attack for a supposed increase in religious intolerance. In the past two decades the Indonesian government has failed to protect its religious minorities, more specifically Christians, Shia and Ahmadiyya, against an increase in levels of harassment.

It is wrong and unjust to forget that a vast proportion of Indonesia’s Muslim population do not reject the views and beliefs of other religions. The majority of Indonesian Muslims remain moderate and are appalled by the increasing religious divisions facing their country.

There are a number of reasons why intolerance towards minorities may be on the rise. These include the fact that Indonesia’s Muslim population struggles to speak out against members of their own community who promote the persecution of minorities. There is also a growing level of radicalisation within the Muslim community which contributes to rising levels of intolerance when combined with a government that lacks adequate intervention and prevention.

Globally there is a growing trend towards an era of nationalism combined with a strong sense of public disenfranchisement. While people individually have a right to feel frustrated towards the government if they believe that they are being unrepresented, it is unacceptable and completely unjust to persecute or alienate other sectors of society. In the case of Indonesia, it is necessary for the vast majority of its moderate Muslim population to speak out in response to radical Islamic movements and stand up for minority groups that have been affected. Freedom of religion is one of the main pillars of any society, and the vast numbers of peaceful Islamic members of Indonesian society must advocate the most basic principles of compassion to those who are gradually becoming more intolerant.

معاناة غزة

غزة و هي مدينة فلسطينية و واحدة من أهم المدن في فلسطين، و هي في الجهة الجنوبية الغربية للعاصمة القدس و تبعد عنها ما يقارب 78 كم تقريبا. و يعيش فيها مايقارب 1.4 مليون مواطن فلسطيني. اللغة العربية هي لغة أهالي غزة و الديانة الأساسية في المدينة الإسلام  مع وجود القليل من أصحاب الديانة المسيحية. كانت غزة سابقا تشتهر بزراعة الشعير،القمح، و القطن و من ثم القيام بتصديرها لدول أخرى ، الان و مع مرور الوقت ازدادت عدد المزروعات في غزة كالعنب، الخيار، البطاطا، الطماطم، البطيخ و التين. غزة أيضا تشتهر بالعديد من الصناعات و من أقدمها صناعة الفخار و صناعة الغزل و صناعة الزجاج الملون و أيضا تشتهر غزة بالتطريز و النسيج و الأثاث اللذي يتم صنعه من الخيزران

الوضع الأمني في غزة غير مستقر و ذلك لعدم استقرار الوضع السياسي لأنها مدينة غير مستقلة و بوجود الإحتلال الإسرائيلي، أهل غزة يتوقعون شن حرب في أي وقت و ذلك من دون أي سبب إضافة إلى ذلك يتم استخدام أسلحة قد تم حضرها دوليا كالرصاص المطاطي و قنابل الفسفور و تلك الأسلحة تتسبب في تدهور الوضع الصحي و أيضا تسبب أزمة معيشية و غير ذلك يعتبر نوع من الظلم الشديد و القسوة التي تستخدم ضد أهل غزة. في بعض الأحيان يتم إطلاق صواريخ غير معروف مصدرها مما يؤدي إلى اخلاء المواقع الأمنية جميعها. أهل غزة أيضا يمنعون من الوصول للضفة الغربية و القيام بأعمالهم و أيضا يتم منعهم من الصلاة في القدس فقط، يسمح لأصحاب التصريحات. بإختصار أهالي غزة غير مسموح لهم الخروج من غزة و تم إغلاق أغلب المعابر المتوفرة و يتم فتحها فقط لأصحاب الحالات الطارئه كالمرضى الذين يصلون لمرحلة خطرة جدا،مما يجعل أهالي غزة يشعرون بأنهم في سجن دائم. تواجد العديد من الأحزاب السياسية المختلفة بكثرة في غزة يتسبب بإحداث خلل في توازن الوضع الأمني و العديد من الصراعات للحصول على كرسي الحكم. غزة أيضا تتعرض للضغط الدولي لدفع الضرائب و عدم اعتراف العديد من الدول بالحقوق الإنسانية في غزة، إضافة إلى ذلك الإهمال اللذي يتعرض له الشعب و ذلك لأنه الرئيس الرسمي للدولة يضع الدول الأخرى و السياسيين من أولوياته وليس شعبه

بغض النظر عن عدم وجود الإمكانيات التعليمية العالية في غزة و لكن المستوى التعليمي يعتبر جيد. هناك 3 أنواع للمدارس في غزة: النوع الأول هي مدارس الغوث الدولية التابعة لمنظمة الأنورا و هي إحدى أفضل المدارس في فلسطين من ناحية توفير المساعدات كمتطلبات الدراسة و هي أيضا مجانية و تقدم خدماتها فقط للفلسطينيين اللاجئين، النوع الثاني المدارس الخاصة و النوع الثالث المدارس الحكومية لمواطنين غزة الأصليين. التعليم في غزة يحتاج إلى تأسيس المزيد من المدارس التي تساهم في التقليل من الضغط في الفصول و استيعاب عدد معقول من الطلاب ، الأدوات الأساسية للدراسة كالقرطاسية و الكتب ، المختبرات العلمية و أيضا إلى تجديد مباني المدارس التي تدمرت بسبب الحروب و الإشتباكات و ذلك لسلامة الطلاب و المعلمين و أيضا إيجاد معلمين ذوي خبره و ذلك لوجود نقص في المعلمين

16% هي نسبة الأفراد اللذين يعانون من مرض مزمن واحد على الأقل و الذين يبلغون من العمر 18 فأكثر. هناك 147 مركزا صحيا في غزة. مايزيد عن المئة دواء غير متوفرين في غزة. عدد كبير من المرضى في غزة ينتظرون الحصول على تحويلة طبية للتمكن من العلاج خارج غزة و ذلك لعدم توفر العلاج اللازم في غزة و بالذات مرضى السرطان و لكن عدد كبير منهم يموتون و ذلك لأنهم يفتقدون الواسطة التي تعجل حصولهم على التحويلة، و في الجانب الآخر أصحاب الواسطات و العلاقات يحصلون على تحويلات طبية للعلاج خارج فلسطين و في أرقى المستشفيات و في فترة وجيزة رغم أن وضعهم الصحي ليس بذلك السوء و لم يصلو لمرحلة مصارعة الموت. وزارة الصحه في رام الله تتحمل كامل مسؤولية معاناة المرضى في غزه و ذلك لأنها تقدم العديد من الأعذار و أولها  وجود ديون مالية كبيرة عليها مما يمنعها من توفير التحويلات بسهولة و لكن عندما يأتي الوضع لأصحاب الواسطات ف الأمور تكون بسيطه

الشباب في غزة يسعون جاهدا للحصول على أعلى الدرجات و أعلى الشهادات الجامعيه و لكنهم يجهلون خيبة الأمل التي سيتعرضون لها بعد التخرج ففرصة حصولهم على عمل قليلة جدا بحيث أنهم سينضمون لعدد كبير من العاطلين عن العمل في غزة و لذلك نسبة البطالة كبيرة بشكل واضح في غزة و ذلك لصعوبة الحصول على عمل و عدم توفر الأماكن الشاغره في الدوائر الحكومية و المؤسسات الخاصة. لذلك يقوم بعض الشباب بترك أهاليهم و اللجوء إلى دول أخرى و البحث عن عمل للتمكن من توفير مصاريف المعيشة و لكن أيضا تواجههم بعض المشاكل في تحويل الأموال فبعض الدول لا تستطيع ولا تسمح بتحويل الأموال إلى غزة. معدل البطالة و الفقر في ارتفاع مستمر و واضح في غزة، نسبة البطالة تزيد عن 50% ونسبة الفقر 43%. في غزة لا يوجد مواد للبناء و لذلك حركة الاقتصاد متوقفة و لايوجد وقود بسبب الاغلاقات المستمرة و أغلبها بسبب الاعياد اليهودية. هنالك مشكلة في الكهرباء أيضا ففي غزة الكهرباء تتوفر لما يقارب الخمس ساعات و النصف و الست ساعات و من ثم يتم قطعها لما يقارب 12 ساعة

غزة عانت الكثير لسنوات عديدة و أهلها لم يحصلو ولو على القليل من السعادة و السلام، لذلك هم يستحقون الإهتمام الدولي و المراعاة الإنسانية و تقديم الدعم اللازم لأهالي غزة للتغلب على جيمع الأوضاع التي يعيشونها. أهالي غزة يقتلون، يقصفون، يعانون الجوع، يسجنون و يقتل أطفالهم أمامهم في الشارع و محاطون بالدماء من كل مكان فشوارع غزة غارقة بالدماء، أين نحن من كل هذا؟ أين الإنسانية؟ أهالي غزة يعانون من خوف دائم من أي اشتباك بين حماس و اسرائيل لأنه إذا حصلت أي مواجهة أخرى بين اسرائيل و حماس سيحدث دمار كامل في غزة و تنعدم الحياة. قلوبنا معكم يا أهالي غزة

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