Friday, March 4, 2011

"The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war"

Jeremy Simons
March 4, 2011

Most people are not aware of the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), but the current budget plan heading to the U.S. senate will sacrifice it's entire budget on the altar of short term expediency, and the blood to flow will come from American soldier's veins.

Just ask General David Petreaus, one of the USIP's biggest supporters, who stated, "In Iraq the Institute stepped up to the plate beginning in August 2007 to assist the 10th Mountain Division in a reconciliation effort in Mahmoudiya, a community on the southern edge of Baghdad that was once known as the 'Triangle of Death. Since then, General Odierno and I have often cited Mahmouidya as a striking success story. USIP's continuing reconciliation efforts at the community level…hold great promise for the future.”

The USIP is the only government agency devoted to promoting global peace building and conflict resolution. It's budget is only $42 million and has a staff of about 150. It's existence reflects at least a spark of institutional governmental commitment to the prevention of conflict through non-violent means. Former Secretary of State George Schultz writes, "At a time when our country is grappling with budgetary challenges, the minuscule budget of the Institute—less than one-tenth of one percent of the State Department appropriation—represents a highly effective investment in our foreign policy and national security capabilities."

Meanwhile, the cost of keeping one soldier in combat in Afghanistan for one year runs between $400,000 to $1million. In other words, what America spend to field one platoon of Marines in Afghanistan would fund the entire USIP for a year, which has conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities in 20 of the most conflicted countries in the world. Let's take a stand on this one, as the Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit tagline on the USIP website states, "The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war."

An online petition to save the USIP is being organized by the peace alliance and can be found at www.thepeacealliance.org, while more advocacy information is at the alliance for peacebuilding at http://www.allianceforpeacebuilding.org/?page=advocacyusip.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What is a learning feast?

As we spend time traveling and visiting in the U.S., we want to help people 1) learn, 2) understand and 3) connect with some of the realities, both beautiful and challenging, that exist in other parts of the world - and especially our corner in the Philippines.

Learning, Understanding and Connecting - these are the 3 purposes of the Learning Feast.

A Learning Feast happens when a family, group or individual sponsors a get together in their home with friends and ourselves where we share 3 things to facilitate the purposes of the Learning Feast:

1) Food - We will distribute and eat the contents of typical ration distributed by aid agencies to families affected by war and disaster - and hopefully learn that feeding the hungry is a lot more than just handing out food.

2) Information - We will share a short presentation of the reality of the poor in the southern Philippines and some of the ways in which people (all of us included) are making, or can make, a difference.

3) Global fellowship - We will arrange a skype conference call, technology permitting, connecting directly with workers in the field to share mutual encouragement for sustainability over the long haul.

Simons March 2010 brief update

Summer is here! Ouch!
Its summer here in the Philippines, which means less rain and hotter! El Nino is affecting the Philippines this year, causing drought conditions, meaning 2 hour rolling power outages on a daily basis, as our main power source is a hydroelectric plant that doesn’t have enough water to run. If it’s at night, it can be fun eating by candlelight and telling stories, other times just plain hot, when we can’t run our fans in the heat of the day with steamy humidity and temperatures in the mid 90’s.

Crisscrossing Mindanao
We have had a busy month with Amy teaching a women’s health class at the maternity clinic as well as traveling with a team of Canadians that came to visit and assess Peacebuilders’ Community health work. They traveled 10 hours each way, visiting indigenous (tribal) and Muslim communities where Jeremy organized two of their stops. The first was a Peacebuilders sponsored coffee training among the Matigsalug tribe. The training pulled together different groups within the same tribe who have often been in conflict. The result of the training was that they began to develop a coffee council together to sell their coffee at fair trade prices and offer greater support to indigenous farmers.

Blessed are the Peacemakers
The second stop among the Talaandig indigenous people turned out to be a highlight. Jeremy presented to the tribal council the culmination of his work over the past year: a listening project of their traditional conflict resolution practices and indigenous cosmology. After the presentation, it suddenly rained, indicating, the leaders informed us, that the project was not only accepted by the community, but blessed in the spiritual realm as well. This is mutually significant because the Talaandig were appointed by their ancestors to be peacemakers among the more than 40 tribal communities of Mindanao. This has strengthened our relationship as fellow peace workers and provides a respected foundation for further engagement with them and surrounding communities.

Simons 2010 U.S. schedule and speaking topics

June 5: Depart for the US, arrive in Denver, CO
June 7-11: Debriefing at IDEAS in Colorado Springs
June 14: Travel to PA and stay with Amy’s parents
Mid to late July: Travel back to Denver, settle into temporary housing and get kids ready to start school (Linea in 3rd grade, Madeline in kindergarten)

Possible speaking topics:

Spirituality and theology of peace building
Where's God in the middle of all this?
Indigenous spirituality and peace building
Restorative justice - learnings so far
A Philippine journey of healing and peace
Current peacebuilding efforts in the 40 year-old civil wars of the Philippines
Human rights and peacebuilding in the Philippines

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

U.S. congress condemns Philippine massacre

Agreed to December 18, 2009

One Hundred Eleventh Congress of the United States of America

AT THE FIRST SESSION

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday, the sixth day of January, two thousand and nine

Concurrent Resolution

Whereas, on November 23, 2009, 57 unarmed civilians were slain in Maguindanao in the worst politically motivated violence in recent Philippine history;

Whereas those killed were on their way to file nomination papers on behalf of Ismael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan, who intended to run against Andal Ampatuan, Jr. who is currently mayor of Datay Unsu, in next year's gubernatorial elections to succeed Andal Ampatuan, Sr., the father of Andal Ampatuan, Jr.;

Whereas many of those killed were women and children, including the wife of Vice Mayor Ismael Mangudadatu and his two sisters;

Whereas most of the women were reportedly raped and their bodies were mutilated after being shot;

Whereas as of December 2, 2009, initial charges have been filed in connection with the massacre , according to press reports;

Whereas the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists reports that at least 30 journalists and media workers were killed in the Maguindanao massacre ;

Whereas, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports that prior to the Maguindanao massacre , 30 journalists had been killed in the Philippines since 2000, and suspects were prosecuted in no more than 4 cases, putting into question the safety of journalists and the integrity of independent journalism in the Philippines;

Whereas government prosecutors and judges with jurisdiction over the massacre have allegedly received threats and have been told to `go slow' on the investigation;

Whereas President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of emergency in Maguindanao the day after the massacre , vowing that `no effort will be spared to bring justice to the victims';

Whereas extrajudicial killings and election-related violence are common in the Philippines, though never on this scale and rarely with this level of brutality; and

Whereas the United States and the Philippines share a strong friendship based on shared history and the commitment to democracy and freedom: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress--

(1) regrets the senseless killing of unarmed civilians and expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the 57 victims;

(2) condemns the culture of impunity that continues to exist among clans, politicians, armed elements, and other persons of influence in the Philippines;

(3) calls for a thorough, transparent, and independent investigation and prosecution of those who are responsible for the massacre , including those who committed the killings and anyone who may have ordered them, and that the proceedings be conducted with the highest possible level of professionalism, impartiality, and regard for witness protection to assure the Filipino people that all the responsible persons are brought to justice;

(4) calls for an end to extrajudicial killings and election-related violence;

(5) calls for freedom of press and the safety of the reporters investigating the massacre;

(6) urges the Departments of State and Justice and other United States Government agencies to review their assistance programs to the Government of the Philippines, and to offer any technical assistance, such as forensics support, that Philippine authorities may request; and

(7) reaffirms the United States commitment to working alongside Philippine authorities to combat corruption, terrorism, and security threats.

Attest:
Clerk of the House of Representatives.
Attest:
Secretary of the Senate.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Peaceweavers statement

Mindanao Peaceweavers is the network of peace networks here in Mindanao, here is their statement