Keep the hope for peace alive: Support the GRP-NDFP peace talks in substance

In a world full of ills and troubles for the people, life needs peace and peace must live. Peace for Life fervently hopes that substantial matters are taken up at the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as they enter the third round of talks on January 19 in Rome, Italy.

The substantial matters to address the roots of the armed conflict in the Philippines, particularly fundamental social and economic reforms, must be firmly supported. Upon this foundation, which can be agreed upon within the year, can lay the basis for the succeeding negotiations to tackle political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities, and disposition of forces.

The hope for peace must be kept alive even as the unilateral ceasefire declared by both parties becomes untenable in the face of continuing military operations of the government, occupation of Indigenous Peoples’ communities, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) incursions in New People’s Army’s (NPA) territories, and the unfulfilled release of political prisoners.

The “whole of nation” approach adopted by the AFP from the United States Counter-insurgency Guide of 2009, sought to “win the peace” through a combination of primarily military combat operations and intelligence and the use of civilian entities for its military objective in the guise of “peace and development programs. The latest Oplan Kapayapaan merely extends the bloody Oplan Bayanihan program of the past administration.

After the first round of formal peace talks in August 2016, there are still 392 political prisoners languishing in various jails. Only two were released in line with the GRP-NDFP talks. At least 20 have been released based on the merits of their cases and the persistence of their lawyers, families, and human rights organizations.

Aside from the thousands summarily killed in the “war on drugs,” there are at least 19 victims of political extrajudicial killings in the first six months of the Duterte presidency from June to December last year. There were more than 13,000 victims of forced evacuations and more than 17,000 suffered under indiscriminate firing and bombing of communities of the rural poor, peasants, and Indigenous Peoples.
Landlords still hold monopoly over vast estates and vestiges of old feudal relations persist even in so-called modern agricultural ventures. Peasants and farmworkers’ struggles are increasingly met with violence and repression. Initial steps to help ensure sufficient land for food production and attain national food security by progressives within the agrarian reform department have been met with resistance by Duterte’s neoliberal economic managers. Rather than heed the long-standing demands of workers to end labour flexibilisation measures, such as contractualisation, the Philippine labour department appears to be more concerned about reassuring and appeasing capitalists.

Aristotle once observed that “the root of revolution and crime is poverty.” With the worsening poverty, inequality and injustice in the Philippines, the peace negotiations become more valuable in the people’s own struggle for sovereignty, democracy, and social justice.

Hence, as peace advocates, Peace for Life shall keep the flame of peace burning in our hearts as we work with the Filipino people for genuine reforms, justice, and peace.

###

Statement on detention and deportation of WCC associate general secretary

 

In an unprecedented move against the leadership of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the ecumenical movement, the WCC associate general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri was yesterday apprehended, interrogated and deported from Ben Gurion International Airport. Phiri, a respected African woman theologian from Malawi, is a senior official of the World Council of Churches whose 348 member churches represent over 550 million Christians in 110 countries around the world. She was travelling to attend consultations with church leaders in Jerusalem on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), one of the many programmes and activities supported by the WCC globally.

The reason given for Phiri’s deportation was “Prevention of illegal immigration considerations.” Phiri resides in Geneva, Switzerland, where she has served as associate general secretary with responsibility for Public Witness and Diakonia at the offices of the WCC since August 2012. She was the only African member of a WCC staff delegation currently visiting Jerusalem. All four other members were allowed entry. The WCC has instructed its legal representatives to lodge an appeal against this patently unjust and discriminatory action against Phiri immediately.

“The accusations made against the WCC and the EAPPI programme in the interrogation of Dr Phiri and published in the media today are completely false” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. “I am very surprised and dismayed that the Israeli Ministry of Interior is apparently basing its decisions on incorrect and unreliable sources.”

The WCC deeply regrets the Israeli antagonism against the WCC’s initiatives for peace with justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Facts:
Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI )is a concrete response to an appeal to the World Council of Churches from church leaders in Jerusalem in 2002. They wrote in a letter: “We would respectfully request protection of all people in order to assist the re-establishment of mutual trust and security for Israelis and Palestinians. Further, we would call on all peace-loving people from around the world to come and join us in a manifestation for just peace”.

Over 70 churches, ecumenical bodies and specialized ministries in 22 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America actively participate in the programme. Almost 1,800 accompaniers have participated.

Jerusalem, 6 December 2016

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General secretary
World Council of Churches

Rise Against Corporate Plunder and Militarisation: Stop the Attacks on Indigenous Peoples!

 

Civil Society Sign-on Statement

From Honduras, To Philippines, To Standing Rock…
Rise Against Corporate Plunder and Militarisation: Stop the Attacks on Indigenous Peoples!

Over the past few years we have seen the intensifying corporate plunder of Indigenous Peoples’ land and resources and the state-sponsored attacks against their resistance and struggles.
It is a cruel irony that the women and men who stand as the protectors of the Earth’s last frontier are being threatened, criminalised, and murdered with impunity.

According to Global Witness’ report, there were 185 killings of Indigenous Peoples across 16 countries in 2015. This is by far the highest annual death toll on record. Conflicts over mining were the number one cause of killings, with agribusiness, hydroelectric dams and logging also key drivers of violence.

We welcomed the year 2016 feeling outraged at the dastardly murder of indigenous leader Berta Caceres in Honduras. Berta was at forefront of campaign against the construction of a hydroelectric project that would have caused severe environmental damage and displacement of Indigenous Peoples of Lenca.

The attacks have only continued and escalated since.
In North Dakota, USA, on Oct. 22, over 100 people, who call themselves protectors, were arrested at a peaceful march after they were confronted by police in riot gear, carrying assault rifles. For months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota has been waging a pitched battle against a proposed oil pipeline that would run near their reservation. The $3.8 billion project can endanger both their water supplies and sacred sites. Last September, private security for the company building the pipeline attacked the Native American protesters blocking the bulldozers using dogs and pepper spray.

In the Philippines, the police’ brutal dispersal of the peaceful assembly of our Indigenous and Moro sisters and brothers in front of the US Embassy in Manila on October 19, 2016. Scores were hurt and arrested (including a former Peace for Life consultant) as authorities charged at protesters with truncheons, water cannons, and a rampaging police vehicle that run over the crowd. The demonstration sought to bring to public attention the militarisation of their communities, the occupation of their ancestral lands by extractive business, and outright government discrimination and neglect.
In West Papua, Indonesian authorities continue to repress West Papuan’s self-determination efforts through censorship and force, violating human rights in the process. In the last three years, 27 West Papuans have been killed. They are prohibited from holding protests and organizing social movements, and many have been arrested and detained for campaigning against extraction and plantation activities. Such arrests have reportedly increased since the beginning of 2016 amounting to 4000 between April and June 2016 and have included human rights activists and journalists.

In Kenya, the Sengwer people continue to be forcibly displaced from their Mt. Embobut ancestral domain; the same goes for the Ogiek, Endorois, In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the indigenous Mbuti Pygmies have been forced off the Itwombe Forest and are victims of a “wipe the slate” campaign. The San Indigenous Peoples of Namibia, Botswana, South Africa face daily discrimination. They and other indigenous marginalized peoples of Africa are often dispossessed of their ancestral lands.

Indigenous Peoples inhabit lands that are rich in natural resources, but they are among the poorest populations due to economical exclusions and deprivation of basic social, cultural and political rights and fundamental freedoms including rights to their lands, territories, and resources.
Today, land ownership remains an urgent issue for indigenous peoples. Ancestral domain is a crucial element in preserving indigenous culture and for their very survival. In the era of neoliberal globalization, however, land has also become the curse that has brought them tremendous suffering and pain.

According to estimates, as much as 50% of the gold produced between 1995 and 2015, and up to 70% of copper production by 2020, will take place on the territories of indigenous peoples. New trade and investments deals push for the appropriation of previously inaccessible territories to extractive business. As a result, indigenous populations are expelled from their ancestral domains, depriving them of their living spaces, resources, and livelihoods, all in the name of economic growth and development.
The current thrust of governments to reduce public spending for basic social services and the privatisation of health, education, and other critical infrastructures aggravate the marginalization and exclusion of indigenous populations. They suffer from poor health, limited educational opportunities, and shorter life expectancy.

Indigenous Peoples are denied their right to self-determination. Although they have their distinct economic, social, religious, historical, and cultural heritage, they have no status as states and no representation.
Indigenous Peoples have been cultivating and developing their local plant life for centuries, but western legal regimes such as TRIPS that allow big corporations to acquire monopoly patents over life forms and life creating processes criminalise Indigenous Peoples for practicing their customs and traditions.

The current climate crisis further aggravates the vulnerability and marginalisation of Indigenous Peoples. The unsustainable production and consumption patterns promoted by Northern governments, big corporations and multilateral institutions have led to the erosion of the environment and climate change. They have refused to honour their historical responsibilities to reduce emissions and pay reparations and are even pushing through with new plans for expanded resource extraction through new free trade and investment deals. Meanwhile, indigenous peoples, who contributed the least to global warming, are bearing the brunt of human-induced climate disasters.

Indigenous peoples have suffered from a long history of dispossession exploitation carried out by colonizers. In the era of militarised globalization, indigenous peoples find themselves anew on a face to face battle with transnational corporations, investors, governments, and multilateral institutions seeking to bleed their resources, tradition, and life dry in the name of development and profit.

But Indigenous Peoples’ are fighting back and reclaiming their right to their resources, their traditions, beliefs, and self-determination. Their collective resistance continues to be one of the most endurable and potent in challenging the hegemony of capitalism and imperialism.

We are called upon to proclaim and translate into concrete reality God’s inclusive love to promote compassion, generosity, and respect for diversity. In these times of crisis, our spirituality demands that we stand for justice and human dignity for all, but especially for our Indigenous sisters and brothers who are being deprived of their voice, rights, and lives.
We condemn and call for an end to militarisation and occupation of ancestral lands and the political repression, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and all forms of human rights violations against Indigenous Peoples and activists. We call on governments to uphold and respect the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Peoples, and other relevant international conventions.

We join our indigenous sisters and brothers in defending their land against development aggression and plunder of their resources by extractive business. We resist new free trade and investment deals that seek to monopolise indigenous peoples’ resources and wealth, knowledge and practices. We are one with them in their struggle to shift away from neoliberal and capitalist development models and to build a new system based on the rational, collective, and democratic management and use of resources in the interest of the people and the wellbeing of the planet.

We endeavour to promote an inclusive development process that respects the rights of all socio-cultural groups, minorities, indigenous peoples, religions etc. over their cultural heritage and natural resources and respecting their right to define and pursue their own development aspirations.

We support the struggles of Indigenous Peoples for self-determination, liberation and sovereignty. We pledge to participate and support campaigns and initiatives in pursuance of these goals.

Stop the attacks on Indigenous Peoples!
End the corporate plunder and militarisation of Indigenous Peoples’ lands!
Fight for Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination and liberation!

Signatories:

Organisations/Networks
1. Ageing Nepal (Nepal)
2. Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (Burma)
3. Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union (India)
4. Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Network on Extractive Industries and Energy (Regional – Asia)
5. Asia Indigenous Women’s Network (Regional – Asia)
6. Asia Monitor Resource Centre (Regional – Asia Pacific)
7. Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (Regional – Asia-Pacific)
8. Asia Pacific Students and Youth Association (Regional – Asia – Pacific)
9. Asian Peasant Coalition (Regional – Asia)
10. Asia-Pacific Research Network (Regional – Asia Pacific)
11. Association for Promotion for Sustainable Development (India)
12. AwaaZ (Kenya)
13. Awaz CDS (Pakistan)
14. Badayl Goa (India)
15. Bangladesh Apparel Workers Federation (Bangladesh)
16. Baraka Women’s Centre (Kenya)
17. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Philippines)
18. Beyond Beijing Committee (Nepal)
19. Bolivian Platform on Climate Change (Bolivia)
20. Borok Peoples’ Human Rights Organisation( India)
21. Center for Agroecology and Endogenous Rural Development (Zambia)
22. Center for Environmental Concerns (Philippines)
23. Center for Sustainable Community Development (Vietnam)
24. Centre for Human Rights and Climate Change Research (Nigeria)
25. Centre Tricontinental (Belgium)
26. Center for Women’s Resources, Inc. (Philippines)
27. Citizen News Service (India)
28. Climate Action Uganda (Uganda)
29. Community Development Services (Sri Lanka)
30. Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (Philippines)
31. Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (Philippines)
32. Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley/KMP Cagayan Valley (Philippines)
33. Eastern Africa Smallholder Farmers’ Association (Regional – Africa)
34. Ecological Christian Organization (Uganda)
35. Ecological Society of the Philippines (Philippines)
36. Economics Association of Malawi (Malawi)
37. Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (Brazil)
38. Ecumenical Bishops Forum (Philippines)
39. Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (Philippines)
40. Fahamu Africa (Regional – Africa)
41. First Nations Enforcement Agency, Arizona and Hawaii (US)
42. FEMNET African Women’s Development and Communication Network (Regional – Africa)
43. Forum of Collective Forms of Cooperation (India)
44. Gram Bharati Samiti (India)
45. Global Agenda for Total Emancipation (Nigeria)
46. Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights (Hawai’i)
47. Health Alliance for Democracy (Philippines)
48. IBON Foundation (Philippines)
49. INA (Māori, Indigenous & South Pacific) HIV/AIDS Foundation (Āotearoa/New Zealand)
50. Indian Social Action Forum (India)
51. Indigenous Peoples’ Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (Global)
52. Indigenous Women’s Network of Thailand (Thailand)
53. Inspirator Muda Nusantara (Indonesia)
54. Institute for Social and Economic Studies (Brazil)
55. Instituto Giramundo Mutuando (Brazil)
56. Integrated Rural Development of Weaker Sections in India (India)
57. International Indigenous HIV & AIDS Community (Global)
58. International Indigenous Working Group on HIV & AIDS (Global)
59. International Migrants’ Alliance (Global)
60. International Migrants’ Alliance Research Foundation (Bangladesh)
61. International Movement for a Just World (Malaysia)
62. Irrigation Training and Economic Empowerment Organization (Tanzania)
63. Joint Advocacy Initiative (Palestine)
64. Kairos Palestina Brazil (Brazil)
65. Kalikasan Peoples’ Network for the Environment (Philippines)
66. Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum (Kenya)
67. Kenya Land Alliance (Kenya)
68. Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Philippines)
69. Labour, Health and Human Rights Development Centre (Nigeria)
70. Light House Bogra (Bangladesh)
71. Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (Sri Lanka)
72. Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Nigeria)
73. National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (Nepal)
74. National Council of Churches in India (India)
75. National Council of Churches in the Philippines (Philippines)
76. Oikotree (Global)
77. Ogoni Solidarity Forum (Nigeria)
78. Orissa Development Action Forum (India)
79. Pacific Network on Globalisation (Fiji Islands)
80. Pagkakaisa para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Philippines)
81. Pakistan Development Alliance (Pakistan)
82. Pakistan Kisan Mazdoor Tahreek (Pakistan)
83. People Over Profit (Global)
84. People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (Global)
85. Philippines-Palestine Friendship Association (Philippines)
86. Polaris Institute (Canada)
87. Progressive Plantation Workers Union (India)
88. Ritongo Afrika (Regional – Africa)
89. Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (Philippines)
90. Silingan Dapit sa Sidlakang Mindanao (Philippines)
91. Socialist Party (India)
92. Socio-Economic-Educational Development Service (India)
93. Solidarite des Femmes Pour Le Bien être Social et le Progrès /ONG-Droits des Femmes au Burundi (Burundi)
94. Stand Up For Your Rights (Netherlands)
95. Student Christian Movement of India (India)
96. Tebtebba Indigenous Peoples International centre for Policy Research and Education (Philippines)
97. Tenaganita Women’s Force (Malaysia)
98. Theology and Development Program, University of Kwazulu-Natal (South Africa)
99. United Church of Christ in the Philippines (Philippines)
100. Visthar Academy of Peace and Justice (India)
101. Vote for Health Campaign, Asha Parivar (India)
102. Welfare Togo (Togo)
103. We Women Lanka (Sri Lanka)
104. Worec Nepal (Nepal)
105. Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (United States)
106. World Student Christian Federation (Global)
107. Worldview Mission (Netherlands)
108. Youth Association for Development (Pakistan)
109. Zo Indigenous Forum (India)

Individuals:
1. Omega Chilufya Bula, Peace for Life (Zambia)
2. Padi Rex RB Reyes, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (Philippines)
3. Ajaya Kumar Singh (India)
4. Andrea Mann, Anglican Church of Canada (Canada)
5. Athena Peralta, World Council of Churches (Global)
6. Bishop Eric Attique Sidhu, Ecumenical Association for Community Development and Research (Pakistan)
7. Carmencita Peralta-Karagdag, Peace for Life (Philippines)
8. Christopher Rajkumar, National Council of Churches in India (India)
9. Daya Sagar Shrestha, NGO Federation (Nepal)
10. Dhirendra Panda, Civil Society Forum on Human Rights/Centre for Sustainable Use of Natural and Social Resources (India)
11. Dickson Rotich, Sengwer Union (Kenya)
12. Dominic DSouza (India)
13. Dr. Aruna Gnanadason (India)
14. Dr. Daniel Ezhilarasu (India)
15. Dr. Noor Fatima, International Islamic University (Pakistan)
16. Dr. Ulrich Duchrow (Germany)
17. Dr. Walter Fernandes, North Eastern Social Research Centre (India)
18. Evangeline Anderson-Rajkumar, Peace for Life/Oikotree (Global)
19. Kathryn Poethig, California State University Monterey Bay/Peace for Life (US)
20. Irfan Engineer (Centre for Study of Society and Secularism) (India)
21. Na’eem Jeenah, Afro-Middle East Centre (South Africa)
22. Jasmin Zine Ph.D, Department of Sociology Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada)
23. Julian Kunnie (US)
24. Samson Kama (US)
25. Kasta Dip, India Peace Centre (India)
26. Louis Tillman (USA)
27. Marama Pala (New Zealand)
28. Marlene Francia, Ibon International – Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office
29. Nancy Cardoso, Comissão Pastoral de Terra (Brazil)
30. Nidal Abu Zuluf, Joint Advocacy Initiative (Palestine)
31. Ofelia Cantor, Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum (Philippines)
32. Pamela Brubaker, California Lutheran University (USA)
33. Prafulla Samantara, Lokshakti Abhiyan (India)
34. Prof. Chung Hyun Kung, Union of Theological Seminary, NYC (United States)
35. Prof. Clifton Kirkpatrick, World Christianity and Ecumenical Studies (United States)
36. Prof. Fructuoso Sabug Jr., Ateneo de Manila University/Peace for Life (Philippines)
37. Ram Puyani, All-India Secular Forum (India)
38. RD Marte, Asia Pacific Council of Aids Services Organizations (Malaysia)
39. Ranjan Panda (India)
40. Rev. Alan Rey Sarte, UCCP (Philippines)
41. Rev. Eunice Santana Melecio (Puerto Rico)
42. Rev. Liberato Bautista Assistant, UN and International Affairs Church and Society/The United Methodist Church
43. Rifat Odeh Kassis (Palestine)
44. Sathish Samuel (India)
45. Sandeep Kumar Pattnaik, National Center for Advocacy Studies (India)
46. Sanjay Khatua (India)
47. Shadaab Rahemtulla (Jordan)
48. Shanzae Asif (Pakistan)
49. Sushant Stanley (India)
50. T.S.S. Mani, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (India)
51. Tony Clarke, Polaris Institute (Canada)
52. Viliame Dileqa
53. William Stanley, EcoDAWM/Oikotree (India)

On the violent dispersal of Indigenous and Moro Peoples’ Protest in Manila

 

The People’s Forum on Peace for Life (PFL) strongly condemns the violent dispersal of indigenous peoples protesting at the US Embassy in Manila today. Indigenous Peoples and allies participating in the Manilakbayan 2016 March of National Minorities were run over by a police vehicle, hosed down with water cannon, and beaten with truncheons as protestors. Fifty (50) people were injured and hospitalized. Twenty-nine were arrested and detained, including former PFL Staff Lyn Angelica Pano.

The protesters were demanding an end to the presence of US troops in the country, supporting the call for an independent foreign policy of President Rodrigo Duterte. They also denounced the Philippine military’s continued occupation of their ancestral lands to give way to, and protect foreign extractive business.

“The violent dispersal is reflective of state forces’ allegiance to foreign dictates,” said Rev. Rex Reyes, Secretary-General of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, a member of indigenous community of the Cordilleras himself. He lamented the horrendous attacks against Indigenous and Moro peoples whom he called the “protectors of the Earth’s last frontier”.

Last September, President Duterte caused a diplomatic storm when he conveyed to the US his intention to end US-RP military exercises, following a change in the country’s foreign policy framework: from one that is singularly defined by US demand to another that fosters mutual interest and equal relationships.

He has also appointed progressive leaders in key cabinet positions and agencies, including Peace for Life’s Working Group member Liza Largoza Maza. This has resulted in incremental policy reforms that benefited the people such as the environment department’s moratorium on new mining projects and review on existing mining ventures.

The Duterte administration also achieved milestones in negotiating peace with different rebel groups in the country. The negotiation with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has already entered its second phase, while that with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front are being secured.

However, certain sectors within the Duterte government have been dragging their feet and openly expressing resistance to proposals from progressive voices in his cabinet. “Clearly, there are sectors within the cabinet, including the military, oligarchs and partners of foreign interests, that are not happy with the on-going negotiations and would want to spoil the path to genuine peace,” said Pete Sengson, Co-Moderator of PFL.

The Indigenous and Moro peoples were housed in the University of the Philippines in temporary camp sites built by students, professors and workers supporting their cause. Students organized integration programs in the camp site to learn songs, dances and the history and struggle of the national minority. Their stay in the campus has gathered a huge support as they unite with various sectors in the country on many issues around social justice.

“The Lumad and the Moro youth also decry the presence of military troops in the schools, which has already prevented students to pursue their schooling,” said Sengson. “This is a concrete proof of how imperialism works in connivance with local state forces. The rights of the youth continue to be violated in the context of imperialism. This should meet loud condemnation among people’s organizations and progressive groups around the world,” he added.

On the 20th-30th of November 2016, the People’s Forum on Peace for Life will hold the first Interfaith Youth and Women Conference against Militarized Globalisation in Dhaka, Bangladesh. An agenda to be tackled in the said conference include the plight and struggle of Indigenous women and youth in the Asia-Pacific region.

Statement on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day

 

Peace for Life, a global faith-based peace and justice movement, unites with the peoples of Palestine and all peoples of the world in solidarity with the struggle for Palestinian national liberation in commemorating April 17 as Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. We reiterate our demand an end to Israeli authorities to respect international human rights and humanitarian laws and related protocols on the rights of prisoners.

The number of Palestinian prisoners increases as Israeli occupying forces escalate its campaign of arbitrary arrests and detentions against thousands of Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Prisoners Affairs Commission, and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights – Gaza, in March 2016, 647 Palestinians were arrested in West Bank and Gaza, including 128 children and 16 women and girls, bringing the total of Palestinians who have been arrested since October 2015 to 4,767. Additionally, 192 administrative detention orders were issued in March by the Israeli military.

As an alliance of peoples of faith formed around the common vision for justice and human dignity, Peace for Life opposes Israel’s immoral and flagrant violations of the rights of the innocently imprisoned in Palestine. Most Palestinian prisoners are in Israeli prisons for crimes they did not commit. Their only fault was to resist and defy an illegal occupation. Israel’s violations are actions that trample on the dignity and sanctity of the human person created in the image and likeness of the Creator. By denying Palestinians their basic rights and imprisoning and subjecting them to inhuman treatment for asserting their freedom and rights, Israel denies the spirit of love of the Creator.

Stifling Palestinian’s Right to Free Speech and Dissent

These draconian actions of Israeli authorities are attempts at quashing the resurging spontaneous resistance against the occupation. Wielding the threat of “administrative detention,” It has scaled its repressive attacks against leaders, activists, journalists, and the Palestinian people in general.

The Israeli military court can hold Palestinian prisoners for a long time on secret information without charging them or allowing them to fair trial. Israel’s policy of administrative detention has been shown by human rights and humanitarian organisations to be a violation of international humanitarian laws and related norms on detention. It has caused and continues to cause unimaginable sufferings and harm to tens of thousands of Palestinian individuals and their families over the past decades.

 

We condemn the terror attack in Lahore, Pakistan!

 

Peace for Life Statement on the March 27 Terror Attack in Pakistan

Peace for life, a global interfaith peace and justice movement mobilizing the power of spirituality for the struggle against the Empire, strongly condemns the recent deadly terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan perpetrated by religious fundamentalist groups. We mourn for the innocent lives lost, including children, and sympathise with their families and friends.

On March 27, a suicide bomber from the local franchise of the Taliban group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar attacked the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park were Christians, mostly children, were celebrating Easter. The death toll from the attack reached 70, as per the latest news reports. At least 300 others were injured. Casualties included both Christians and Muslims.

This is not a religious war. This is a war resulting from the continuing militarization and war of aggression conducted by the United States, in collusion with its puppet states and local ruling elites, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in the wider region.

The Pakistani intelligence and military forces have been held by the international community as having provided material and political support to the Taliban from the very beginning. Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that the label ‘Taliban’ has also been deployed as an ideological propaganda weapon by Western powers to delegitimize and stigmatize the genuine widespread resistance to foreign occupation and meddling in the region.

Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally, supplying intelligence and logistical support to the United States. The United States, in turn, rewards Pakistan’s loyalty by pouring in billions of dollars in military and economic aid. US government has proposed US $ 860 million in aid for Pakistan during 2016-17 fiscal year, including $265 million for military hardware in addition to counter-insurgency funds. This is on top of the series of drone strikes and direct military intervention of the US inside Pakistan.

In 2015, Peace for Life initiated an Interfaith Peace and Solidarity Mission for Pakistan to bring to public attention the plight of communities affected by sectarian violence in the country. The recent terrorist attack in Lahore confirms our conclusion that to end violence and sectarianism in Pakistan, Pakistanis of all faiths and confessions need to come together to struggle against the Empire’s militarization and wars of aggression.

Peace for Life resolves to continue the achievements of the 2015 Pakistan solidarity mission and build on this advocacy. This year, we are planning to hold a Peace Festival to serve as a forum for individuals from all religious, ethnic, and professional background to promote dialogue and understanding and overcoming divisions. We call on all Pakistanis and all the peoples of the world to join us in the quest to find justice for victims of terrorism in Pakistan and achieve a lasting solution to peace in the country.

We stand in solidarity with the Pakistani people against fundamentalist terror, imperialist wars of aggression, and militarism.
We call for justice for the victims of the Lahore terror attack.

 

End fundamentalist violence!
Justice for all victims of terrorist violence in Pakistan!
End militarism and wars of aggressions in Pakistan!

New Struggles, Renewed Commitment

 

We enter the New Year facing new threats to peace, justice, and life. The year 2016, many opine, will be beset with wars, deep shocks, and unforeseen consequences. Despite the pervading atmosphere of apprehension and foreboding, Peace for Life vows to continue to build people’s solidarity and faith-based resistance to the Empire and the destructive forces of militarised globalisation.

The unfettered ‘free market’ global economy spirals further into crisis. Neoliberal globalisation continues to aggravate already deep social inequalities. According to a report published by Oxfam, the richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world combined, and power and privilege is being used to skew the economic system to increase the gap between the richest and the rest. The system’s unsustainable consumption and production patterns warm the climate and destroy the environment, directly affecting communities mostly in underdeveloped countries.

Economic instability, inequalities, and ecological vulnerabilities are fuelling wars and ethnic and religious conflicts across many parts of the globe. Wars of aggression and local and regional armed conflicts have intensified contradictions between competing imperialist powers and their regional proxies and allies. The massive US and NATO military invasions in the Middle East created gaping political and security vacuum that allowed religious fundamentalist outfits to fester and seize power. This has resulted in unbearable economic and social catastrophes leading to millions of refugees within countries and regions and now surging in large waves towards Europe. The tense political atmosphere is being hijacked by rightwing groups to stoke hatred and violence against Muslims and immigrants.Amid seemingly desperate situations, flames of hope are kept burning by the people resisting oppression and exploitation. Peace for Life in 2015 continued to mobilize its resources and network to promote ecumenical solidarity with the struggles of the poor and marginalised.

Peace for Life issued its position statements and analyses on burning issues of the day. We strongly condemned the killings, massive forced displacement, harassment, and threats against the Lumad indigenous peoples in Mindanao, Philippines, and the occupation and closing of their schools by the state military and paramilitary forces. We called for justice for the 148 Garissa University students massacred by the Al-Shabaab terrorist group in Kenya and urged all peace loving Muslims and Christians to stand united and work together towards achieving sustainable peace in the country. We recognized the efforts of Pope Francis to make good use of his platform and influence to bring to world leaders’ and the public’s attention the need to urgently act on the development challenges of our times including inequality, poverty, exclusion, and the climate crisis.

We fostered interfaith unity for peace in Pakistan through a gathering in Bangkok in
June. The meeting provided a space for Pakistani activists to hold dialogue with their counterparts from the Global South and other parts of the world and come up with a common framework of action
in response to religious and nationalist fundamentalisms and local/foreign oppressions.

A communiqué synthesising our analyses of the human rights and socio-economic situation in Pakistan, and signifying our pledge to mobilise for peace and justice in the country was released. We look forward to further this initiative through an Interfaith Peace Festival in Pakistan this year, with delegations from different parts of the world.

New and existing partners have pledged support for our projects in 2016 to advance interfaith youth
unity and gender justice. The Feminist Agenda will provide an interregional space for Christian and Muslim women to build an interfaith women’s alliance; while the Interfaith Youth Camp to be held in Nairobi, Kenya will foster interfaith solidarity foresistance against militarised globalisation and its impacts on children and youth globally.

We strove to build and enhance our organizational capacity and effectiveness through improvements
in our governance and communications systems. Face-to-face and online Working Group meetings were conducted, and more are scheduled for this year. Regular sharing of updates and information via the Secretariat enabled members to make informed decisions and have a sense of ownership over their respective work and tasks.

Indeed, despite the challenges and limitations, the past year was not lived in vain. People all over the world are beginning to draw the lessons, to acquire a greater consciousness of the social and political forces they confront. In this regard, Peace for Life’s work among faithbased communities, groups, and leaders to use the power of spirituality to build resistance to the life-threatening forces of global hegemony is of vital importance. Our efforts and initiatives in 2015 will be
repeated on an ever-larger scale in countless forms in the coming period.

Once more, history beckons the community of faithful to heed the clamour of the
people. We renew our devotion to achieve peace and justice for all and vow to continue our commitment to resist militarised globalisation and the destructive forces of empire. ■