American Friends Service Committee
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
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Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
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Activists Gather in London to Stop the War
Thea Paneth is a member of United for Justice with Peace in Arlington, MA.
Two public statements were adopted at the conference. One called for international demonstrations against the war, and against widening the war through attacks on Iran or Syria, on the third anniversary -- March 18 and 19, 2006.
The second statement called for the release of the Christian Peacemaker Teams members who have been taken hostage. The Stop the War Coalition (UK) sent one of its members, Anas al Tikriti, to Baghdad to work for their release. Sheikh Al Khallisi of the Iraqi Foundation National Congress followed up by telling us it is not clear who the groups are that are carrying out kidnappings and that the kidnappings hurt the resistance movement -- he termed them "suspicious acts."
David Swanson, a founder of the group After Downing Street, put forth another good example of international activists working together. The "Downing Street memos, " a series of leaked UK government minutes, constitute strong evidence that the Bush Administration had already decided in 2002 to go to war against Iraq, and that officials lied to Congress and the US public about weapons of mass destruction and the connection between the September 11 attacks and Saddam Hussein. The documents were big news in Britain, but only made headlines in the US after activists worked very hard to get the US corporate media to acknowledge and cover the issue. Swanson stressed the importance of "working the referees," a term he said is used by the right wing as they push the media toward the right. We must "work the referees," he said, "to push back."
The conference was an important and historic step in building an international mobilization for peace. The British peace movement warmly welcomed US peace activists. Herbert Docena from Focus on the Global South, based in Thailand, exhorted us to not get tired of marching for peace, saying: "your marching lifts us all." MP Jeremy Corbyn said "movements work." And Walter Wolfgang who escaped the Nazis said "we cannot allow the world to relapse into barbarism."
In the evening, a performance of Nobel Laureate Dario Fo's play Peace Mom (still a work in progress), with world-renowned actor Frances de la Tour playing Cindy Sheehan, was held to benefit the Stop the War Coalition. Dario Fo and Cindy Sheehan were in the audience.
Conference drawbacks included that there was not time to share detailed information about organizing efforts that are underway in the countries represented and there were no breakout sessions to explore ideas or ask questions. As third-world participants in the World Social Forums have led the way in declaring, our international gatherings must foster practical, grassroots sharing of information and action, and not simply replicate old models of 'experts' speaking to passive audiences.
United for Peace and Justice Coalition (US) co-chair Judith LeBlanc reported that UFPJ had already decided that decentralized local actions, rather than one massive march, will be how its members organize to mark the third anniversary of the invasion in the US. It may turn out that we miss an important opportunity to participate in an international day of opposition to this war, one that may include protests in Basra and Baghdad. However, if a number of well-organized regional actions can be held across the US it could prove to be a movement-strengthening effort.
I returned home with a deeper appreciation for the importance of our organizing for peace and justice here in the US. We have a tremendous responsibility to the world to engage in the hard work of organizing, of finding ways to motivate our fellow citizens to join the peace movement, to make real the urgency and the reality of the war on Iraq. There is a nascent global peace movement. US peace activists need to build our domestic peace movement community by community and work together regionally as well as nationally. In this way we can begin to bridge the difficulties of living in a large country. We must be part of this global movement for peace in a "people-to-people" effort. An engaged, global movement of "citizens of the world" is the only solution to the problems facing the planet. The only way we will have peace is to demand it.