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31 December 2009

Down the Paraná

I’m uploading this post from Mendoza, on New Year’s Eve. We just arrived and it is 6 in the morning. In case I don’t get the chance to update the blog before 2.1., I’d just like to say that Buenos Aires and San Luis have been really fantastic and, well, see you in the mountains!

From Resistencia, we rode on another rented minibus to San Lorenzo. The motorway, the efficiently organized farming, the housing, all witnessed a standard of life comparable to that of Europe. However, in some places appeared slum areas. Micky told me that the slums did not exist before the last decades and that they are the consequence of failed economic policies. I remember vaguely accusations of corruption towards a former president and the later economic crisis of a few years back, but the earlier economic crises I have not been aware of before.

As we were ahead of the schedule, the local group arranged us the possibility to rest for a while in a small hotel, which supported the march in that way. But before rest, we had lunch in a local restaurant. Argentina produces a lot of meat and also eats meat in big portions. Only our Chilean-Brazilian member Gonzalo was able to fully meet the challenge of the meat, but we others also ate enough so that when we saw the bill, we realized that we have to skip dinner!

In San Lorenzo, again we rode in a caravan of cars instead of actually marching. The caravan ended in Puerto General San Martin, in a small, cozy harbour with a cultural center. By the river Paraná, that we had seen already in Foz de Iguazu and later in Resistencia, people sat by the river fishing. Other side of the large harbour building that had become a cultural space, there was a stage and a crowd of mostly women. Maybe the countryside men don’t attend this kind of events so much? We enjoyed the simple and relaxed atmosphere of the event, where the municipality again gave us each a gift, a decorative item with grains typical to the area.

Article and photos of Puerto General San Martin in

Still in the same evening, we continued to Rosario, only 30 kilometres from San Lorenzo and Puerto General San Martin. The World March festival in Rosario was also by the Paraná river, in a park between the river and the monument to the national flag of Argentina, which was created in Rosario. The blue and white colours of the flag were chosen so that it is in contrast to the Spanish yellow and red flag, that was rebelled against. Rosario is also the birthplace of another famous rebel, namely Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

Although we had thought that we have to skip dinner, after the festival the local team invited us to a restaurant. We sat in an outside terrace under big trees, as inside it would be too warm. There was only one detail that especially our vegetarian member Bhairavi did not appreciate much in our dining location: several small, some medium sized and rare big bugs fell from the trees and flew to our plates. Luckily we had our World March banners and Bhairavi could use the banner as a scarf to protect her head from the invasion of falling bugs. The local team at first mistakenly interpreted the scarf of our oriental member as part of her religion…

Next day, we had institutional meetings: with the Governor of the Province of Santa Fe and at the Municipal council of Rosario with one councillor and other administrative personnel. The governor, Dr. Hermes Binner was well disposed to continue cooperating, and in the meeting with Councillor Pablo Colono it was clarified that all of the political parties in Rosario are together in this cause of peace and nonviolence. A representative of the Agricultural Federation of Argentina came to give their endorsement to the march, and a priest (sorry I didn’t get his name), who is a respected person in Rosario and has travelled the world for peace between religions, told of an interreligious artwork that was recently established in Rosario. A charming and careful detail in the meeting in the Municipal council was the flags of the countries from where the present Base Team members came from.

Pictures of the meetings with Governor Binner and in the Municipal Council

What was really a disappointment in our Rosario visit was that our plan to visit the Park for Study and reflection in a nearby Carcarana village did not work out due to heavy rains that blocked the country roads. Instead we visited the meeting place of Humanist Movement in the center of Rosario – a nice and ample apartment in a good, central location. Some of the Brazilian friends also arrived there, since they had also planned to come to Carcarana that day. We all remain in expectation of our next visit to Rosario.

31 December 2009

Resisting violence in Resistencia

Argentina is the last country on the route of the World March. For me, it’s the 12th country in a route that took me through 4 continents; for some, who started in New Zealand, it’s approximately the 35th country, within 3 months.

From Asunción, we travelled (again with a bus) to Resistencia, in the province of Chaco, Argentina. Our Humanist friends Roberto Kohanoff and Deborah Tormen received us there with great warmth and care – Roberto already at the border between Paraguay and Argentina.

The first event of the day took place immediately when our bus arrived to Resistencia. A hot, sunny day, everyone was sweating by the memorial statue to those fallen in the Falklands war. Tony Robinson, our British member, prepared in his mind a speech during the bus ride, finding inspiration in what Silo had talked about reconciliation in his last speech in Punta de Vacas. Finally in his actual speech, Tony renounced the use of war and the false opposition between countries and factions.

The event at the war memorial was ceremonial, with the presence of Aída Ayala, the Mayor of Resistencia; the municipal parade band; gauchos (cowboys) on horse saddle; and advertisers of the local soda Cabalgata, which sponsored the event. We heard two beautiful songs: the national anthem of Argentina and the hymn of Chaco. The relations between the organisers, who came with flags of The Community for Human Development and Convergence of Cultures, and the municipality are excellent, which was also underlined in the appreciation that was expressed by the gift that the municipality gave to each of us; a wooden and stone sculpture by Bustos Navarro and an official declaration that we are distinguished visitors of the City of Resistencia. OK, at this point a sculpture is a welcome gift; in an earlier moment, with thousands of kilometres of travel ahead, a sculpture with an imbedded fist-sized stone would have been a burden…

From the memorial started a caravan through the town, finishing in a special place known as the Kohanoff Park. In this caravan participated not only cars with flags of the World March waving in the air, but also the gauchos with their horses – and two motorbike clubs. Several motorbikes, with some of the World Marchers (Tony, Bhairavi and Magaly) riding on their backs, from the clubs “Retobados” (“rebels”) and “D’Ngue” supported the cause of peace and nonviolence by joining the caravan. Bhairavi took the place of Mili, the spokesperson of the Retobados club, in the back of one of the bikes. Since Mili rode with us in the bus and I got the opportunity to discuss with her, I found out that the bikers did not know beforehand our common destination, the Kohanoff Park. When there, they were impressed to discover such a place exists in their town.

I had not visited the Kohanoff Park either, but I knew about it and had seen photos. During our journey through the world, we have visited some of the Parks for Study and Reflection, which have been built for study and reflection based on the teachings of the Argentinean thinker Silo, whose thoughts also inspired the World March itself. All of these Parks have some similar buildings, most notable of them being the meditation hall, which has white walls and nothing inside of it – no distractions. Well, the first hall, the prototype for all the others, was built in Kohanoff Park by Roberto Kohanoff alone, already in 1970s. For me, it was a fantastic inspiration to visit the small, humble hall and the simple grounds of the Park.

What’s more, there was a cultural programme held in the hall, besides another much longed for event: an agape of sandwiches and fruit for lunch. We ate lunch in the shadow of a big tree, but before that there was a choir performance and a short sharing of thoughts. An indigenous choir, of people from Qom-lik (known better as “Toba” but when I asked them, they said “Qom”) ethnic group, sang for the Pachamama and for us. It worked on us, even though earlier Roberto had told that the Qom-lik had said that the hall is in an occidental tone of Mi, whereas the Qom music is based on Fa?! Like often before, we ended up on the dancefloor, this time within the meditation hall. Then there was supposed to be an interreligious meeting, but there had been a confusion of timetables and only one of the religious authorities was present: a Lutheran priest, who reminded me of my uncle, who is also a Lutheran priest.

In the evening, we were received at the provincial government of Chaco. At the government house a detail struck me: a wall full of portraits of former provincial governors, with several bearing a big sign “Military dictatorship”. As my native country Finland has, since it gained its independence, always been a democracy, the fact of countries being under brutal military dictatorships is for me shocking, in some way almost unbelievable. How can an institution continue after becoming so dehumanized? Keeping those photos on the wall shows an interesting level of reconciliation – instead of demonizing those people entirely, their possible positive contribution is recognized, while distance is taken from the politics they represented and fulfilled.

The minister of the provincial government Juan Manuel Pedrini, who received the marchers, was very well informed. He spoke without any notes and went through the proposals and some of the achievements of the World March with ease. He had clearly been following the march virtually and was completely in agreement with its goals. The governor Jorge Capitanich was not present, but Pedrini gave to the marchers a version of the Charter for a World Without Violence, that was signed by governor Capitanich. There were also present in the meeting some youth from the local Rotaract club, and they will probably go to Kohanoff Park for training as Monitors for Nonviolence in the close future.

The evening march with youth had to be canceled due to rain, and instead we went to the “Campfire of the Cowboys” (“El Fogon de los Arrieros”). It was a cultural center, a meeting place that had for decades been a bohemian and philosophical lighthouse, its walls filled with strange objects and works of art, literature and quotes like the following: “Many people who dream of immortality don’t know what to do on a rainy evening.”

It was from the “Fogon” that the status of Resistencia as a city of sculptures started. The cultural circles of the Fogon started to sponsor sculptors and created the now internationally famous Biennale of sculpture in Resistencia. The proposal of the Humanists, also mentioned by Micky Hirsch in the meeting with the provincial government, is to start keeping an international Spiritual Biennale in Kohanoff Park during those years when the Biennale of Sculpture is not realized.

27 December 2009

Young power in Asunción

Fabio and Nicolas, the dudes from Asuncion, came to pick us up from the hotel in Foz de Iguazu at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning. We had spent the 24th in Foz, visiting one of world’s natural wonders, the Iguazu Falls (Iguazu is guarani and means “big water”) and holding a free day. Foz de Iguazu is a town at the crossing of two rivers that divide three countries: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

After crossing the bridge to Paraguay, the next challenge was to see whether Bhairavi, our Indian member, would be admitted to Paraguay. She had tried to get a visa to Paraguay earlier, but could not manage to do that within the travelling timetable. Getting it in India itself would have taken three weeks. So, we decided to have a go at it at the border.

On the Paraguay side of the river is the town called Ciudad del Este. The town is a well known salesplace for contraband technology: smuggled hi-tech in prices that that are among the cheapest in the world, in shops owned by Chinese, Indian and Arabic immigrants.

One of the reasons for the disponibility of the “city of the east” as a smuggler’s paradise is that the border is very easy to cross, and in Bhairavi’s case this proved correct as well. Very quickly and easily she got a 3 days transit visa – and we only were to stay in Paraguay less than 24 hours.

Paraguay is a class society, Fabio told us as we rode across the Paraguayan countryside. There’s a rich minority and a poor majority and a very small middle class. Rich landowners own monstrously big farms. The amount of land that one household can own was recently limited radically in neighbouring Bolivia, but the same is not likely to happen in Paraguay. The Bolivian president Evo Morales is backed by strong popular movements that are the motor of the change, whereas while the Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo sympathizes with Evo in speeches, he is not about to do big changes in Paraguay. The contrast in the general standard of life between Paraguay and the rich southern Brazil – where we came from – is visible in the level of infrastructure, housing, cleanliness etc. and to the World Marchers, Paraguay looked like many of the Central American countries – but still clearly richer than Mauritania or Senegal.

After the busride through lush, green countryside across the country, we arrived in Asuncion and to the Humanist Movement social center, where we were received by a bunch of lively young Humanists for a welcoming lunch. Also Tony Robinson and Petra Klein joined us there for the Christmas Day lunch. (From Asuncion, Petra continued to Montevideo, whereas Tony came with us to Resistencia.) Exhausted by the heat of Asuncion and the early travel, we then were taken to accommodation to rest for a while. We have asked for common accommodation from all places where we go, but here exceptionally our short stay was in the houses of local members, which was cozy.

In the late afternoon we participated in a World March press conference in the center of Asuncion, in Hotel Guarani Esplendor. In spite of being Christmas Day in a predominantly Catholic country present were two newspapers, one televisionchannel and one radiochannel. It appeared otherwise as a rather standard press conference, but then someone from the audience started speaking. It was Martin Almada, an educationalist and a true humanist, who was brutally tortured by the Stroessner dictatorship in 1970s and later got the Right Livelihood Prize, known as “the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize” in 2002 (this year it was given to Alyn Ware who coordinated the World March in its starting country, New Zealand). Almada told us that it was exactly in that hotel, where killing and torture in the whole Latin America was planned, during the prehistorical barbarity known as Operation Condor. And enthusiastically he added that today we converted this place into a place from where the humanization of Latin America makes its voice heard! Obviously referring to the times of Operation Condor but also to more recent plots of anti-humanism, Almada also proposed to the 5 points of the World March a sixth point: Constitutional governments are to be respected; a military coup directed towards a legal government cannot be accepted.

Participating in the press conference was also the singer Rolando Chaparro, who talked of the role of artists in building a world of peace and nonviolence, and immediately after the press conference he also practiced what he preached, playing with his band in the festival in front of the hotel. The ones attending the concert, on the evening of Christmas Day when most people are with their families in the countryside, were mostly Humanist Movement members. In Paraguay today the Humanist Movement is mostly composed of youth, in two generations where the older generation is 30something and the younger generation is approximately 18-25 years old. Many have joined during the last year, and are happy about the restructuring process in the movement, because it gives them space to be heard.

In our discussion with the young members in Asuncion, they told that many youth are joining because they recognize a place with a sensibility, a different connection among the people. They recognize a warmth, happiness, a psychological ambit. I was really happy that they told this because in my opinion this is not always understood or appreciated strongly enough: the movement grows because it is an ambit of transformation where we work as equals, not because of the fantastic protagonism of individuals. It is great that we have many wonderful people working in and with the movement – just remembering the speeches of Dr.Lafayette in New York and Martin Almeida in Asuncion as some of the shining examples – but the movement is not an individual thing. Individualism is exactly what we need to overcome, and have attention on the whole, on diversity, and opening spaces for new, young people. Because, they also told that another important motive to join is when something not habitual happens, something that moves oneself. When one goes into a situation of doing things, like going to a public square to keep a speech, as they gave as an example. This is what has happened to us who are active members – we know this from our experience. We were 18 years old and went to the street to greet unknown people with an open mind and sincerity, to meet them as humans, to make them think of humanist themes and to tell them about the movement. Maybe we don’t do similar street actions today, since the situation is different. But for example in Asuncion they went to the streets with another kind of an attractive campaign earlier this year, known as “Tits and asses for peace”… Anyway, whatever we do, we should consider seriously what the youth are saying, because the youth are the future, and if you don’t respect the future, you have no future!

Those who come to Punta de Vacas for the final event of the World March, will meet the buses of about 70 youth from Humanizarte and Humarandu clubs of Paraguay there.

26 December 2009

Little London

After enjoying the smooth organisation of the events in Sao Paulo and the festive spirit of Rio, part of the Atlantic team travelled to Londrina, in the Southern Brazilian state of Paraná. Together with us travelled the families of Glenda de la Fuente, Atlantic route coordinator of the march, and Ricardo Marcianesi, the coordinator of the march in Rio and Brasilia; Ricardo was the one who got in contact with peace activists in Londrina to organize the march, and connected Londrina to the map of the march.

Londrina is a new city – founded 75 years ago by British settlers, who gave it the name Little London, in Portuguese Londrina. The city grew quickly with the arrival of immigrants from several European countries and continues to be a growing and thriving economy. Lots of Japanese, as well as Brazilians from nearby zones, have also moved in to this city with 500.000 inhabitants and a prestigious University; still, the vast majority of the population is of European descent. The contrast to the northern zones of Brazil, where the indigenous and African descent is prevalent, is striking. As Londrina was founded long after the times where Africans were imported as slaves, the northern pattern of white masters and black servants is not visible here. The indigenous guarani population of Paraná was mostly chased away by the slave-hunters already long before the founding of Londrina, and those who remain today (or have returned – I’m not quite clear on the whole story), live in a reservate where they can live partly in their traditional ways and partly integrated to the system of the city, state and country founded by European settlers. The entire State of Paraná has these characteristics of being European and also affluent in comparison to the average of Brazil.

Our stay in Londrina was hosted by Luis Claudio Galhardi, who has for several years been building a network called COMPAZ – Municipal council of culture of peace, and an organization called Londrina Pazeando, whose objective is “to build a culture of peace and nonviolence in Londrina.” Luis Claudio is a very warm personality who is himself a living example of the culture that the organization wishes to build. This year Londrina Pazeando / COMPAZ organized an event of a human chain, where they “hugged” a lake in a park by the center of Londrina. To circle the entire lake and to cover 2,5 kilometres, they would need 2500 persons: this year they managed to bring 700 persons there on 20.9., during the “week of peace” promoted by the municipality. Next year, we’re hoping this objective will be fulfilled.

We arrived on a night bus (without enough leg space for a certain tall Nordic body) and so first Luis Claudio took us to the accommodation to rest for a while. What a contrast to the routine of big cities it was! Luis had arranged an entire bus for us, though we were only twelve persons, and the bus drove outside the city and in country roads that quickly got smaller until driving carefully over a precarious wooden bridge and arriving to a hideout in a beautiful green valley.

After rest, we came back to the city and were received… by the military police! We’re trying in this small team of marchers to bring each of us to talk publicly so that we can learn, and it was my turn on this first occasion of the day. The situation was a surprise – the reception by the military police and someone in a suit – I had expected that we were going to meet the Mayor and I wasn’t quite sure from where the person in suit was; it appeared that he was some kind of a representative of the Mayor, but why was he here with the military police..? In any case, since we had agreed that I should mention the necessity of the media to change the image they show of the society (since the Mayor used to be a journalist in the sensationalist press), I covered that area besides the usual information about the World March. The person in suit was the Secretary of Security of the municipality, so I had understood it more or less correctly, as he works in the cabinet of the Mayor.

Picture: discussion with the Secretary of Security and the military police

Then, a friendly military police gave us a praising lecture on Londrina, and after discussing with him (and also finding out that even in Londrina there is violence and some problems, though the economic situation of the majority of the population is quite good), in the barracks of the military police we were offered a simple but tasty lunch. In Londrina (I don’t know how it is in the rest of Brazil or Paraná) the military police is a preventive police force, they explained, in contrast to the civil police, which is investigative and works with the judicial system.

From there, we went to see the lake, where Luis Claudio and friends made their human chain. Some other pacifists met us there, including the enthusiastic doctor Ricardo Sahao, who lives just next to the lake and works in the hospital that is also there, by the lake. In the front-yard of the hospital Ricardo has created an inspiring “Philosophical garden” with installations of song words like those of Imagine, and a Tree of human values, and so on.

In the City Hall we were received by the Vice-Mayor, as the Mayor was at that moment in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. A group of young musicians participating in the campaign “Project Happy Child” played to us classical music pieces starting with the “Ode to Joy.” Then Andres spoke a few words, basing his speech on the point that even though one would have their personal problems solved, one should not be indifferent to the problems in the world around one. How could Andres, as a Colombian, be indifferent to the discrimination and problems of the African-descent population in Brazil? How could Brazilians be indifferent when foreign military bases are installed in Colombia, against the will of the majority of the Colombian population? As a North European, I feel that the social problems we have, are often related to indifference and isolation, and if Londrina is a mini version of a North European city, maybe they do have those same problems – people becoming cynical and discriminating?

After some interviews with the press, it was time to march – here the march was a caravan with cars, to a square where before Christmas there was a stage and an event every evening at 19:00 and usually there would be about a thousand people. However, here the tropical rain started pouring. Our caravan rode through the buckets of rain, with the fire department truck leading, all cars lights blinking and our bus with big flags waving from the windows, that at the same time we had to keep closed.

When we came to the square, the rain stopped for a while, so we could take a walk, but there was no people and so we left quite soon after. The square itself was a picturesque place with big shintoist gates, a japanese-style garden and oriental lanterns hanging from the metallic Christmas tree; the square had been founded on the centenary of Japanese immigration to Brazil, 1908-2008, inaugurated by President Lula and Naruhito, the Prince of Japan.

After some playing together and singing in a hall nearby, our evening ended with a dinner of camaraderie, where also Luis Claudio’s sons recorded some interviews of the participants. The sons had been with us the whole day, filming the events, so that we hope to see their videos soon!

Lastly I would like to add that we were greatly inspired by the little comic books which promote peace and nonviolence, that Luis Claudio has written and Elvis Vinicius has illustrated. I’m attaching here an image from one made in 2005; it bears resemblance with a certain logo!

Map of Brazil with streams for other cities walking for peace to Londrina (or from Londrina)

Map of Brazil with streams for other cities walking for peace to Londrina (or from Londrina)

26 December 2009

The World March review

Just before the end of each year it is customary to make a review and give awards; the best sportsperson, the best film, the funniest joke, etc.

I thought it would be fun to do something similar with the World March.  With only 1 country left for me (Argentina) here is my personal review of the World March (remembering that I travelled only 30 of the 90+ countries)…

Best welcome: Rekohu – Standing out among all the fantastic welcomes we received was the one given to us by the beautiful Rekohu islanders.  The spiritual and ceremonial start to the World March surely put us in the best possible condition to start this long journey.

Most exciting moment: Wellington, 2nd October the official start of the March – knowing that what we were doing in New Zealand was being awaited around the world and knowing that in the next 24 hours hundreds of events were taking place in support of the International Day of Nonviolence and the WM start was exhilarating.

Best welcome dance: Aboriginal welcome in Sydney Australia. It was about 5 degrees centigrade and raining and this family performed some splendid welcome dances and even had the rest of the base team dancing too.

Solemnest moment: Walking along the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea. The feeling of quiet and sadness was invasive.  It was only at the end of this event that we realised that we were the first foreigners to visit it, something I still can’t quite believe.

Most publicly emotional moment: receiving a hug from a hibakusha in Hiroshima. See the blog entry for details.

Rudest airline: Aeroflot.  Not only did the check-in staff make us pay for virtually every single kilogram of excess weight even though we were Marching for Peace and Nonviolence, even though the flight was half full, but then the cabin crew treated us like shit too!

Most paranoid police force: Moscow. Being made to hide the WM logos and flags 10 blocks away from Red Square even though we had no intention of doing anything other than take a few tourist photos beats all the others I experienced, although I hear that the Ankara police would have been in competition for this prize.

Most amusing moment: phone call from HSBC. See here.

Best technological gadget: The bus from Istanbul to the Greek border. Who knew that you could get internet on a bus?

Best political discussion: Greeks discussing the name of the country on their northern border.  We spent hours on this theme travelling through the Balkans.

Best children’s March: Macedonia. The children were everywhere we went.  Splendid!

Most paranoid border control officer: Macedonia. We were only taking a photo of ourselves with our friends who made Macedonia so memorable!  We weren’t planning to come back and bomb the place later.

Biggest shock: Bomb damage in Belgrade. You turn a corner and there you face a building shell, the remains of the US bombs on Serbia during the Balkan wars.

Most bizarre coincidence:  the World March arriving in Prishtina, Kosovo on the day they give an award to Bill Clinton for all the bombs he dropped on the country!

Most entertaining World March companion: Former World Boxing Champion, Mensur Peljto, BosniaSee here.

Most beautiful city: Sarajevo, Bosnia. A cold and sunny day in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital city in the mountains, made this the most beautiful city for me and one that I hope to return to soon.

Best joke: President Mesic of Croatia. “You can negotiate with terrorists but not with Protocol,” as our time with him came to an end and the Protocol officer was kicking us out.

Strangest Peace Sign: Slovenia. Forming a peace sign while kneeling on the floor with umbrellas while it is raining heavily.

Best peace sign: Trieste, Italy. With the energy of the samba band this was far and away the best peace sign I took part in.

Wettest March: Vicenza, Italy.

Strangest night’s sleep: Geneva, Switzerland. Sleeping in a nuclear-bomb-proof underground shelter cannot be beaten even by sleeping with 50 other people in the same room in Rekohu!

Best singing: World March organisers in Germany, singing Ode to Joy the day before Silo addressed the Nobel Laureates Summit.

Most inspired speech: Bernard Lafayette, New York, USA. In the church where Martin Luther King denounced the War in Vietnam, Dr Lafayette blew our socks off with the inspiration and energy of his speaking.

Best day of the World March: Los Angeles, USA. This was a hard category with Wellington, New York and Bogota all competing for this honour.  In the end a fantastic civic reception and declaration of support by LA city council, followed by the Tongva Nation blessing ceremony, followed by pictures at the Hollywood sign, followed by a March of 500 people down Wilshire Boulevard including Martin Sheen, followed by a cultural event with many inspirational speeches is my best day of the World March.  Congratulations to Mayra Gomez and all those who made it possible.

Best head dress:  Mexico City indigenous ceremony. Huge feathers and great costumes.

Best music accompaniment: Marimba from Tapachula. I could have listened and watched these guys play all night.

Best hat: Esquipulas, Guatemala. Stefano Cecere (with the base team in Asia) asked me to bring as a present for him the most amusing hat I could find.  Stefano, I found the most amusing hat ever!!

Best hour of tourism: Copan, Honduras. Wandering around the Mayan ruins, then planting a tree for the World March.

Best small event: San Salvador. We were told that the last event of the day in San Salvador was cancelled because of no sound system.  We were told this when we had already arrived at the venue.  Apparently no one told the people it was cancelled either and together with Micky and Magaly, the three of us had the opportunity to take part in the most unexpected, yet inspirational event of the March for me: a small gathering of around 40 people who had stayed for an hour waiting to hear from us.

Best drummers: the boys of Aruko Wakia, Costa Rica.  Rafael, Alberto, Jonathan and Felipe – you made the Central America leg of the March something very special for the base team.

Best March I didn’t participate in: Panama City. 8,000 people marching for Peace.

Best media coverage: Colombia. The work with Caracol TV led to all Colombian media taking part.  An incredible work by David Nassar and others in the Colombian promotion team.

Best food: Montserrat, Bogota. This was a difficult category also, only just beating the fantastic food we received in Rekohu!

Most surreal moment: A day spent with Juanes, Ipiales, Colombia. See here.

Best government reception: Ecuador. The Government of Rafael Correa gave us a splendid reception in a meeting with his entire cabinet.  In addition to the work done by the local organisers in Quito, Cuenca and Quayaquil this was the most impressive part of the March at an institutional and Government level.

Most touching moment: Lima, Peru. Bringing the World March to young people who suffer with disability (which is not the same as inability) reminded us that the work of the World March here is just as important if not more important than the work with Presidents and governments.

Bravest marchers: the LGBT representatives of El Alto, Bolivia. These young men from El Alto, expressing their sexual orientation openly by dressing as they did, paid no attention to the strange looks from passers by as the March led into the centre of La Paz.  Good for them!

Most hopeful venue for the World March: Asuncion, Paraguay. The young people of Asuncion, even on Christmas Day, gave us a welcome that matches most of the best receptions we have had.  Here we really felt that these young people are the future once the March has finished.

As you can see, every country wins a prize!!  Clearly, this is just a bit of fun, and shows some of the World March highlights for me.  Only one week to go to Punta de Vacas!  We can’t wait to get there…

Big hug


26 December 2009


La red de acompañantes de la Marcha Mundial, no solo se ha montado por la ruta del Pacífico. También por el Atlántico, nos acompañan de forma discontinua, varios de ellos. Fotógrafos, curiosos, periodistas, viejos amigos, militantes que solo disponían de unos días…

Petra en RioPetra en NiteroiSin duda la más famosa de todos es Petra, que además tiene sobrada experiencia, pues viajo con el EB desde Wellington a Dakar.

Ahí os dejo una foto de ella en Rio y otra de Niteroi

Todos los aportes son bienvenidos… animo que ya se ve la cúpula de Punta de Vacas.

26 December 2009


Renata Tadei fue miembro del Equipo Base desde Wellington hasta Roma. Allí se quedó porque así lo tenía previsto y porque además, su madre enfermo y tuvieron que operarla. Por cierto espero que siga bien.

El caso es que, a pesar de tenerla añadida en Skype y Facebook, no había vuelto a hablar con ella y que yo sepa, tampoco ninguno de los actuales miembros del EB.
Pero, lo que son las cosas de la vida, llegamos a Sao Paulo y una enorme foto suya, encabezaba el estrado del acto central en la ciudad.

No se de donde la sacaron, pero allí estaba con su inseparable bandera multicolor. Creo que la foto debe ser de algún país del norte de Europa, porque va muy cubierta con gorro, bufanda y guantes.

Bueno, sea donde sea, nos alegró mucho volver a verla.

Desde aquí le mandamos un enorme beso y enviamos las fotos para que todos la recordemos.
Renata en Sao PauloRenata en Sao Paulo 2

25 December 2009

Angèlica’s Blog in Deutsch

Weltweiter Marsch für Frieden und Gewaltfreiheit

ab Costa Rica 9.12.2009

Ich komme um 21.30 in San Jose Cosa Rica an. Diego und Mario holen mich ab. Wir kennen uns nicht aber es fühlt sich an als würde ich gute Freunde treffen. Im Auto auf dem Weg in die Stadt erzählen wir unsere Geschichten wie einem Freund den man lange nicht gesehen hat. Wir besuchen noch ein paar andere und fahren dann zu Mario wo ich übernachte.

Am nächsten Tag fahren wir nach Liberia, einem Städtchen an der Küste, das nahe an der Grenze zu Salvador liegt. Dort wird morgen das Basisteam vom Marsch ankommen. Auf dem Weg organisieren wir noch einige Sachen wie 600 T-shirts abholen, Transparente einsammeln. Das Telefon geht non-stop um verschiedenste Sachen zu koordinieren. In Liberia fahren

Nach einem gemütlichen Frühstück, findet man fast das ganze Team im Aufenthaltsraum mit offenen Laptops, um an ihren jeweiligen Funktionen zu arbeiten: Videos -, Fotos bearbeiten, schreiben für den Blog, den nächsten Stop koordinieren, usw.
Um 11Uhr zieht die erste Gruppe los zu einem zentralen Platz, dort arbeitet ein Clown mit Kindern zum Thema Krieg und Gewaltfreiheit. Wir verteilen „Nicht-Kriegs-Spielzeug“ an die Kinder als Belohnung.
Danach formieren wir uns für einen Marsch durch die Stadt, der am gleichen Platz endet. Auf der Bühne finden den ganzen Tag über Konzerte mit super guten Bands statt. Jeder im Basis Team stellt sich auf der Bühne vor und Magally hält eine Rede.
Jetzt haben wir frei bis 20Uhr wo wir nochmals auf der Bühne reden werden.
Bevor wir ein zweites Mal losgehen informiert uns Luis, dass das Team für die Atlantik Route nicht in Panama bleibt, sondern vom Bus zum Flughafen fährt, um über Rio nach Recife/Brasilien zu fliegen. OHJEEEEE …….., das ist aber traurig, jetzt hatte ich mich so gefreut, die Leute vom Basisteam zu treffen und schon müssen wir uns trennen. Ja und ausserdem heisst das auch eine Nacht im Bus und die nächste Nacht im Flugzeug zu verbringen. Ohje!!!!! Mitternacht steigen wir in den Bus – natürlich nicht ohne uns mit Umarmungen und Tränen in den Augen von Diego und Mario zu verabschieden.

Um 6Uhr morgens werd ich geweckt wir sind an der Grenze zu Panama. Als ich mirch gerade wieder auf meinem Sitz ausgestreckt hatt um weiter zu schlafen, mußten wir wieder aussteigen, weil eine ganze Gruppe Panamenhos, einschließlich eines Abgeordneten und eine Presse Gruppe vor unserem Bus stand um uns zu empfangen.
Also sind wir mit Trommlergruppe voraus aus dem Bus getanzt.
Nach herzlichen Begrüssen, Interview usw. steigen wir eine halbe Stunde später wieder in den Bus.
Um ca. 8Uhr werde ich wieder geweckt und als ich aus dem Fenster schaue stehen da zwei Reihen weiß gekleideter Männer Spalier plus jede Menge Leute in Sonntags Kleidern. UPS – ich habe gerade die ganze Nacht in meinen Klamotten geschlafen, mein Weltmarsch T-Shirt ist nicht mehr ganz weiss. Eine Brassband empfängt uns und dann beginnt der Marsch. Es ist sehr heiß, die Sonne knallt auf unsere Köpfe. Es marschieren bestimmt 1000 Leute, darunter traditionelle Tanz- und Musikgruppen. Der Marsch endet an einem Platz, wo der Bürgermeister, verschiedene Prominente und wir Reden zu Frieden, Rüstung und Gewaltfreiheit halten. Es gibt nochmal viel Presse, die Interviews mit uns machen.
Dann werden wir noch zu einem Frühstück eingeladen – Das tut gut.
Wir steigen wieder in unseren Bus Richtung Panama City. Nach einer Schlafpause, erzählt uns Esther über die politische und soziale Situation Panamas. Über den Präsidenten , über die amerikanischen Militärstützpunkte, wie Panama eine wichtige Rolle spielt um den südamerikanischen Kontinent zu „kontrolieren“. Jetzt nähert sich der Moment wo wir uns trennen müssen – es ist schon traurig jetzt sehen wir uns erst in Punta de Vacas wieder. Wir verabschieden uns auch noch von den Trommlern und der Bus hält. Es stehen schon 2 Autos bereit, die uns zum Flughafen bringen, wir laden unsere Koffer um. Jetzt ist echt Abschied, viele, viele Umarmungen und gute Wünsche und los geht’s zum Flug nach Recife – Brasilien über Rio.


Nach unserem Reise-Marathon kommen wir mittags in Recife an. 3 Leute holen uns ab. Wir haben ein tolles Hotel – Best Western am Strand, für 2 Nächte.
Leider können wir nicht schlafen, nachmittags gibt es eine Pressekonferenz ber der ich den Marsch vorstellen kann. Später können wir uns dann in den Nachrichten im Fernsehen sehen.
Vor dem Abendessen haben wir ein Treffen am Pool, dort lernen wir die Organisatoren des Marsches und die verschiedenen Gruppierungen die den Marsch organisiert haben, kennen. Zum größten Teil Leute der schwarzen Bevölkerung deren Kultur und Religion diskriminiert wird. Einige kämpfen gegen die unglaubliche Gewalt in der Bevölkerung, es gibt in jeder Familie mindestens einen Ermordeten. Die höchste Mordrate ist in der jungen, männlichen schwarzen Bevölkerung. Für 20 Euro kann man sich eine Pistole kaufen, ohne Ausweis. Folglich sind alle bewaffnet. Die meisten Jugendlichen haben mit Drogen zu tun – Marihuana, Kokain und Crack.
Dazu kommt, dass Brasilien sehr hohe Militärausgaben hat und international an 12. Stelle steht.


Um 9Uhr nach einem tollen Frühstück – jede Menge tropische Früchte, das liebe ich – fahren wir nach Olinda, einer kleinen Stadt gleich bei Recife. WOW … tausende in weiss, Trommeln überall, die Leute tanzen, es ist knallheiss. Wir marschieren ca 1 Stunde bis zum Platz vor dem Rathaus. Auf der Bühne halten wir, einige Prominente und der Bürgermeister Ansprachen und es gibt kulturelle Darbietungen.

Wir, das Basisteam und die lokalen Organisatoren, werden vom Bürgermeister ins Rathaus eingeladen. Ein interessanter Mann, wir sind uns einig, dass dieser Marsch nur der Anfang eines existentiell wichtigen Prozesses ist. Er sagt, dass viele Gruppen gegen die Gewalt kämpfen aber dass es diesen Marsch braucht um der Bevölkerung eine Stimme für ihren Aufschrei gegen die Gewalt zu verleihen. Er dankt uns aus ganzem Herzen. Schon wieder kommen mir die Tränen – ich werd so sentimental bei diesem Marsch.

Pause … wir gehen Essen, einen Aussichtspunkt besuchen für den Souvenier Laden ist leider keine Zeit mehr – auf zum nächsten Marsch. Wir fahren zu einem super schön dekorierten Platz in Recife. Dort warten schon ein paar Leute und die Presse. Wir geben Interviews, werden wichtigen Organisationen vorgestellt, lernen mehr über den Staat Pernambuco. Wieder sind wir vor dem Rathaus – dieses Rathaus ist viel formeller, mit Wachen überall. Wieder werden wir zum Bürgermeister eingeladen (ich darf leider nicht mit, denn ich habe Shorts an und das erlauben sie nicht … naja).
Für diesen Marsch haben wir einen Karnaval Wagen, indem eine Sambagruppe spielt. Wir dürfen auf dem Dach vom Bus mitfahren. Das ist super, da tanzt es sich noch viel besser. Am anderen Ende steht eine riesen Bühne und ein paar tolle Gruppen erwarten uns. Nach der ersten Gruppe, stellt sich das Basisteam auf der Bühne vor.
So jetzt aber schnell zurück ins Hotel, es ist schon 9Uhr und morgen müssen wir um 4Uhr los zum Flughafen nach Salvador de Bahia und dort haben wir den ganzen Tag Programm.

4:15 Uhr wir steigen in den Bus zum Flughafen!!!! Einige haben NICHT geschlafen, man muss ja noch das Film- und Fotomaterial bearbeiten. Im Flugzeug kann man ja noch ein bischen Schlaf nachholen.
Nach einem schönen Empfang am Flughafen bringt man uns zum Hotel – super mit Meerblick ? Sterne Hotel – leider bekommen wir noch kein Zimmer, es ist zu früh. Nicht so schlimm wir haben ja sowieso keine Zeit zu schlafen. Um 10Uhr ist ein Empfang beim Präsidenten vom Staat Bahia. Interessant wir können wirklich unsere Anliegen vorbringen und bekommen Antworten. Zwei Stunden sind wir dort. Danach sind wir zum Essen eingeladen und treffen Vertreter von Organisationen der schwarzen Bevölkerung, die den Marsch mitorganisiert haben.
Jetzt geht’s weiter zum Marsch. Die Stadt Salvador hat finanziell mit beigetragen den Marsch zu organisieren. Überall ist Presse: Zeitung, Radio und TV. An jeder Ecke sieht man einen von uns mit vorgehaltenem Mikrofon Interviews geben.
Es kommen verschiedenste Gruppen, die meisten weissgekleidet manche mit weissen Luftballons. Es sind tausende die sich schliesslich in Gang setzen. Fantastisch!! Das Hauptthema ist die Gewalt – die Gewalt, die Diskriminierung, die Armut. Ein Lastwagen mit Lautsprechern begleitet den Marsch und dort werden die ganze Zeit über Reden gehalten und Musik gemacht. Mir wird auch das Mikrofon in die Hand gedrückt, ich soll eine Rede halten, Ufff ….. so aus dem Stehgreif zu tausend Leuten sprechen. Aber es gibt keine Ausreden, kein „mir liegt sowas nicht“ oder „nein heute lieber nicht“.
Es ist ein langer Marsch, wir sind erst um 19Uhr im Hotel und sind todmüde aber wir sollen noch zu einem Abendessen und Auswertungstreffen vom Tag. Das Treffen ist sehr gut und wirklich wichtig. Um 23Uhr lieg ich schliesslich im Bett – Morgen um 4Uhr geht’s weiter nach Rio.

Es ist 11Uhr morgens als wir in Rio im Hotel ankommen. Auf dem Weg vom Flughafen zur Stadt kommt an ein den Favelas (die Armenviertel Rios) vorbei. Wir werden alle ganz still mit bedrückter Stimmung – das ist aber schrecklich.
In Rio sind bereits 4 Leute die sich ab hier dem Marsch anschliessen – Juha aus Finnland, Aurora aus Madrid, Inma aus Barcelona und Irene aus Italien. Jetzt sind wir 12 aus dieser Strecke.
Das ist super, denn wir müssen uns bereits aufteilen, heute gibt es zwei Veranstaltungen: um 17Uhr ein Marsch und Treffen mit dem Bürgermeister von Niteroi, das ist eine Stadt gleich neben Rio und um 17.30Uhr gleichzeitig ein Treffen im Rathaus von Rio. Ich beschliesse das Mittagessen ausfallen zu lassen und bis um 17Uhr zu schlafen.

Jaaaaa…… super ….. die kleinen Freuden des Lebens 4 Stunden schlafen – genial.

Jetzt geht’s mir viel besser, die Luft in Rio ist toll, jetzt ist alles plötzlich ganz fantastisch.
Wir kommen im Rathnaus an, tolles Gebäude, sehr beeindruckend (die Fotos sind auf der Seite). Das Basisteam darf in die erste Reihe, damit wir uns jeder vorstellen können. Die Reden sind ausserordentlich, sie sagen Dinge wie: Dieser Marsch ist viel mehr als Frieden zu fordern, indem die Gewalt auf physischer, wirtschaftlicher, rassischer, religöser und moralischer Ebene abgelehnt wird, fordert der Marsch eine neue Grundlage des Zusammenlebens für unsere weltweite Gesellschaft. Das ist eine tiefgreifende Veränderung.“ Es ist so unglaublich diese Leute soetwas sagen zu hören. Der vorsitzende weist daraufhin, dass der Marsch in ein paar Tagen in Punta de Vacas endet aber dass das eigentlich nicht das Ende, sondern der Beginn einer tiefgreifenden veränderung ist die der Marsch in Gang gesetzt hat. Er verteilt an alle Anwesenden Origami Tauben. …. Wenn man bedenkt, dass diese Leute früher unsere Feinde waren, die uns angeklagt haben.

Nach dem Abendessen gibt es ein erstes Treffen mit allen alten und neuen Teammitgliedern, um Informationen auszutauschen und unsere Rolle als ganzes zu besprechen. Es werden auch neue Funktionen verteilt.

Es ist Viertel nach 2 als ich dann in meinem Bett lande. Morgen können wir ja fast ausschlafen, um neun werden wir erst abgeholt.


Heute marschieren wir an der Copacabana, das ist ein wunderschöner Strand!!!! Es dauert ein bischen bis der Marsch loszieht, wir gehen singend den ganzen Strand von Copacabana entlang. Am Ende erwarten uns zwei Sambabands und alle Leute fangen an zu tanzen. Das macht sehr viel Spass …. an der Copacabana Samba tanzen.

Leider müssen wir aber wieder los, Mittagessen, ein kleines Schläfchen und um 17Uhr fahren wir zum Corcovado, da oben gibt es ein Konzert und eine interreligiöse Zeremonie.

Eine Zahnradbahn fährt fast bis ganz nach oben. Da sind schon ganz viele Leute, unter anderem Paul Cruyvetter von „Mayors for Peace“ – er lebt seit Ende Oktober in Rio. Wir fahren zusammen in der Zahnradbahn hoch. Er erzählt mir über die Situaton Südamerikas in Bezug auf Atomwaffen. Bis jetzt ist Südamerika ja atomwaffenfrei aber sowohl Brasilien wie auch Venezuela könnten in nächster Zeit Atommächte werden. Aus diesem Grund ist es wichtig JETZT Bewußtsein zu schaffen um das zu verhindern.

Die Fahrt wird immer mystischer, als wir in eine Wolke eintauchen die den Christo umhüllt. Oben angekommen geht man noch ein paar Treppen und dann kommt man an der riesigen Christusstatue an. Auf der Aussichtsplattform zu seinen Füssen ist eine Bühne aufgebaut. Die Wolken reissen manchmal auf und dann kann man die Stadt mit ihren Lichtern und Stränden sehen. Wegen dem Wind, der Höhe und dem Nebel ist es recht kühl.

Das Konzert beginnt, dann kommen Vertreter verschiedener Religionen auf die Bühne: Islam, Judentum, Bahai’i, Candomble, ein katholischer Prieser, ein Baptist und ein Zen Buddist. Jede/r (3 sind Frauen) hält eine kleine Ansprache was der Marsch für sie und ihre jeweilige Religion bedeutet, gefolgt von chanten, meditation, Gebet, usw. Am Ende umarmen sie sich alle: nochmal!! die vertreter der verschiedenen Religionen umarmen sich und haben Tränen in den Augen so bewegt sind sie.

Der Sprecher der Humanisten für Brasilien kommt auf die Bühnen um eine Carta für den Frieden vorzulesen, er schafft es nicht denn er ist so bewegt, dass er vor Tränen nicht mehr sprechen kann und die Aufgabe abgeben muss. Das trifft uns natürlich alle und wir fallen uns zum Abschluss alle in die Arme.

Eine Zeit kann ich gar nichts mehr reden.

Wieder unten angekommen gibt es noch ein paar tolle Säfte und Snacks, dann gehen wir noch was essen und um 2Uhr lieg ich dann wieder im Bett, Wecker auf 5Uhr morgen geht’s mit dem Bus nach Sao Paolo.

20.12.09 Sao Paolo

Im Bus fahren noch ca 20 Leute aus Rio mit. Kurz vor Sao Paolo steigen 3 Leute vom Basisteam aus um nach Caucaia zu fahren, wo gleichzeitig ein Marsch stattfindet.

Wir kommen in Sao Paolo an, werden in ein tolles Hotel gebracht -Merkur-, laden unser Gepäck im Zimmer ab, dann ganz schnell wieder zum Bus, im Stadtzentrum – in einer Fussgängerzone – gehen wir in einem „Buffetrestaurant“ was essen – wir haben 20 min. Zeit dafür – dann geht’s zum Marsch. Alles wartet schon auf uns, wir führen mit unserem Transparent den Marsch an. Ich laufe zwischen zwei brasilianischen Persönlichkeiten, die mir beide zur Begrüssung ihre Visitenkarte geben. Direkt vor uns läuft die Moderatorin einer bekannten brasilianischen TV-Show mit ihren Kameraleuten, sie interviewt während es Marsches einem nach dem anderen von uns. Es sind auch sonst noch viele andere Presseleute da.

Ich kann den Marsch gar nicht ganz sehen, weil ich da hinter dem Transparent laufe. Ich glaube es sind ein paar tausend Leute. Ich höre einige Samba Bands, die Leute tanzen.

Schliesslich kommen wir an einem zentralen Platz an, wo eine Riesenbühne aufgebaut ist. Es gibt ein tolles Programm, Tänze, berühmte Sänger, ein Birimbau Orchester, etc. Das Basisteam wird hinter der Bühne bewirtet und nach einer halben Stunde werden wir auf die Bühne gerufen, wo wir uns und unsere Beweggründe für diesen Marsch vorstellen.

Von der Bühne aus erkenne ich ein paar gute alte brasilianische Freunde, die ich schon lange nicht mehr gesehen habe. Woww super. Ich geh sie gleich begrüssen, ein schönes Wiedersehen.

Schliesslich werden wir zum Hotel zurückgebracht. Uiiiiii ….. heute kein Program mehr. Ich arbeite noch ein bischen am Komputer und beschliesse dann das Abendessen ausfallen zu lassen und auszuschlafen.

21.12.09 Sao Paulo
Heute haben wir ein Treffen mit dem Bürgermeister von Sao Paulo. Deshalb ein bischen zu dieser Stadt: 19 Millionen Menschen leben hier, fast ein Viertel Deutschlands. Es ist die Industriestadt Brasiliens, soweit das Auge reicht sieht man einen Hochhaustschungel. Wenn in Rio alles etwas langsam war, hier muss alles schnell und effizient gehen. Die Leute sind hauptsächlich weiss. Das Problem mit der Gewalt, sowohl physisch wie auch wirtschaftlich ist mehr als bekannt.

Also wir kommen im Rathaus – eine Festung – an und werden mit speziellem Schutzpersonal in das 22. Stockwerk gebracht. Es wird uns ganz genau erklärt was jetzt geschehen wird und dass unsere Stühle mit Namen gekennzeichnet sind. Jede Menge Presse. Der Bürgermeister mit dem Minister für Sicherheit und zwei anderen Funktionären kommen rein. Zuerst spricht eine der Organisatorinnen vom Marsch in Sao Paolo dann Micky Hirsch für das Basisteam, dann der Bürgermeister. Er sagt wie wichtig es ist die verschiedenen Formen der Gewalt zu erkennen und zu bekämpfen bzw. vorzubeugen. Er gibt Beispiele aus Sao Paolo. Dann erklärt er verschiedene Massnahmen die von Stadt durchgeführt werden sollen: z.B. 1 Million Euro um 20000 junge Leute zu schulen um Kurse gegen Gewalt durchzuführen. Diese Leute sollen zu 50% von den Humanisten und 50 % von anderen Organisationen ausgebildet werden. Wir werden zu einem symbolischen Akt auf dem Platz vor dem Rathaus eingeladen. Eine Gruppe Soldaten zerstört mit einem Panzer einen kleinen Berg Waffen. Überall ist Presse und jede Menge Zuschauer.


23 December 2009


Sao Paulo has 19 millions of inhabitants. Admittedly we could not bring them all to march with us, but the cameramen and reporters of several national television channels marched backwards in front of us and on the following day we heard from the Brazilian organizing team that since the march arrived to Brazil, there had been 254 articles or notices about it in the Brazilian press.

We arrived exhausted from Rio with bus, having slept very little and being late in the timetable. A smaller delegation went to the celebrations in the Caucaia Park of Study and Reflection, to an event which I heard was really fantastic, but I had decided to visit Caucaia on my way back to Europe in January, so I went instead with the others to march in the city center of Sao Paulo. Let’s admit it: our expectations in terms of number of attendants in the march in Sao Paulo were not met – we had expected thousands, but there were only some hundreds. That was a shame, because the march and the concert afterwards were excellently organized with logistics for thousands and fantastic performances of well known performers. It is not so easy to know why there were not so many, especially since there was so much media exposure, but perhaps people did not care to come to the city center on a Sunday, or something like that. Anyway, some extent of our message came out to millions through the medias, and those present enjoyed it all very much.

On the march, I specially was impressed by the carnival group Ilu Oba de Min‘s candomble-inspired dancing and singing. The multitalented and multicultural concert (see full list of performers here) was bursting with colours and beautiful sounds, including “Vamos Todo Mundo”, a Brazilian theme song for the World March that is one of my favourite World March songs, right after the Senegalese song that is placed in a very profound region of the heart…

On the following day, after resting well in a luxurious hotel with a swimming pool and eating in a nice vegetarian restaurant, we met with the local World March activists. For them, the World March was not only the event of 20.12. but an entire process, “a daily march”, during which they had been working a lot with schools and going to big institutions, understanding enthusiastically that this is a very big project and that nobody has a similar kind of an international network that can realize something like this.

One of the big institutions that were involved in Sao Paulo is the municipal government. That’s where we went then: to the City Hall for a meeting with the Mayor of that huge city. The City was involved in the March also economically: Sao Paulo Department of Tourism had sponsored the concert logistics. Other economic support came from the trade unions of chemists, postal workers and bank functionaries, who had supported with the printing of materials and other logistics.

At the City Hall we met and had the possibility to express our concerns to not only the Mayor Gilberto Kassab, but also to the Minister of Justice of Brazil, Tarso Genro. Several Latin American Presidents have adhered to the March and a few have also met with the Base Team; Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has, despite many attempts and despite generally appearing as a rather progressive and beneficial president for the country, not answered our call. At least here we got to meet one person of his cabinet – Tarso Genro who has in the past also been the Minister of Education, which is of special interest to the Brazilian Humanist Movement, that organized the World March events in Sao Paulo.

Genro came to the meeting since after it he was to sign an agreement on safety measures and to participate in a symbolic action on a related issue: a campaign of disarmament, which coincidentally started on 2nd of October. Since the national plebiscite calling for a stricter law on possession of arms ended with a negative result, the City of Sao Paulo made instead a voluntary campaign. People could give their weapons to the police to be destroyed. The destruction of the arms was demonstrated by destroying some of them in the presence of the Mayor and Tarso Genro.

Besides the Mayor and the Minister, present were several City Secretaries – of Urban Security, International Relations, Human Rights, Environment. The Sao Paulo World March Spokesperson Flavia Estevan kept an excellently prepared speech, where she explained that the question that we want to see with the City Hall is how can we put the theme of Nonviolence in the agenda. Then, the Base Team member Micky Hirsch presented the Charter for a World Without Violence to the Mayor and the Mayor signed the charter. In general the meeting was quite formal, but our contributions went much further than formalities.

Afterwards, we were invited to sit as the audience and look how the Minister of Justice signed the safety measures agreement, and then there would be a concrete destroying of some of the weapons. I imagined a room underground, under the City Hall, where the weapons are melted into a big shapeless block of metal. We got into the elevator and went to the ground floor – but the officials and the policemen had already disappeared somewhere. After some confused looking around, someone found out that we should go further downwards. There was another door to outside the City Hall, and we got directly to the square, where the concert had been on the day before. Already, the Minister and the Mayor and some other men in suits were getting into black limousines and driving away, just when we were arriving. It seems they had some more important business to attend to.

However, at least some of the City Secretaries had that much respect for our presence that they did not immediately run away but engaged in a discussion with Flavia and Micky and others, about themes like organizing a meeting with owners of the press to change their worldview, or giving workshops of nonviolence in the training of the police. Meanwhile one of the local Humanists told us that the ceremony of destroying the weapons happened on the street a few steps away, and some of us rushed there to see what was happening. There was a bunch of policemen surrounding a small bulldozer and in front of the bulldozer, some rifles that the bulldozer had just crushed to pieces. There were also some handguns and we came with our banners and posed in front of the guns and the remains of the rifles while the policemen looked and made sure that nobody steals any of the guns. After the procedure in any case there still remained some guns to be destroyed – the ones that were hanging from the belts of the policemen…

Afterwards we travelled to an apartment of a local member. Sao Paulo traffic is congested and the metro is the quickest means of transport, but when we got to outside the metro station, we decided that we do not dare to enter the metro. During the rush hour, it is impossible to keep together a big group like us in the metro, and we did not want to get lost. So we took the bus instead and spent the evening together in an apartment, before saying goodbye to the Paulists (the Sao Paulo people) and to ourselves: here the Atlantic Base Team was split and myself, Magaly, Micky, Angelika, Andres, Bhairavi and our accompanying friend Gonzalo left to Londrina with a night bus, while Irene, Inma, Luis, Aurora, Jacqueline, Tommaso and Sandro stayed in Sao Paulo for the night and left in the morning for Curitiba. But that’s another story…

20 December 2009

Nite and day in Rio and Niteroi

After two weeks break – one in the USA and another here in Rio – I’m joining the Base Team again. Please excuse my ambitiously long blog entry – after a long pause from the blog, this is probably some kind of a compensation.

Myself and Petra Klein, who is now accompanying the Base Team here and in some of the places of the rest of the Atlantic route, actually already participated in a couple of activities before the Base Team’s arrival. Particularly nice event was in the center of Rio de Janeiro, with hundreds of 14 to 16 years old youth from 11 schools from lower class neighborhoods making performances of music, dance and poetry. Events in the poor neighborhoods (called favelas) sometimes are difficult to carry out due to the drug war and other corrupt practices in those areas. People are simply afraid of coming to events promoting nonviolence. Work in those areas is very important and the youth in the event also told to us very heartfeltly that this is an important cause. The conflicts of those areas are vividly dramatized in the award-winning film City of God (Cidade de Deus) by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund.

Yesterday the others arrived and we split into two teams – half of us went to an event in the City Hall of Rio and half of us, including myself, took a ferry across the harbour to the neighbouring city, Niteroi. Niteroi has about 500.000 inhabitants, which they call “a small city” – my formation landscape has a different scale, as Finland’s biggest city has 500.000 inhabitants. This is Brazil!

In the ferry harbour, to my surprise we were joined by Pol D’Huyvetter from Mayors for Peace. Some of us know Pol from the European Humanist Forum in Milan last year, where he demonstrated in practice the amount of nuclear weapons in the world with the sound of small metal balls dropping into a bucket. Pol D’Huyvetter from Belgium is now known as Paulo, since he has been living in Rio for a month, on a mission to promote Mayors for Peace in Latin America. (The danger of Brazil at some moment in close future realizing a wish to “join the nuclear club” is very real.) He has already been to Costa Rica, where most of the mayors of the country joined the network during two weeks of visit, and is going to Chile in a week to participate in the World March there and to meet more mayors who aspire towards nuclear disarmament. For those who are not aware of it, Mayors for Peace is an organization founded and headed by the Mayor of Hiroshima, and its goal is total worldwide nuclear disarmament. It is one of the main participating organizations of the World March and the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol, which is their proposal for the United Nations as a practical plan for the abolition of all nuclear weapons in the world by 2020, is one of the main documents of the World March, which we have been disseminating to all of the most influential political decisionmakers that we have met on our journey.

The World March event in Niteroi took place at the City Hall of Niteroi. First a parade orchestra with horns was playing in the front of the City Hall and we stood there a while posing for the photoes and listening to the music. Then in the old, solemn hall there was the formal function, which became heartfelt and interesting due to the interesting speakers, some of which spoke in languages that I understand – and some in portuguese, at which point I had to imagine. First speakers were secretaries from the city council; old, dignified and academic men who spoke in portuguese, with emotion, and saying something about peace and Gandhi – I didn’t catch much more… then the World March video was shown. Last two speakers were more interesting to me: Pol and from the World March Base Team, Aurora Marquina.

Pol D’Huyvetter talked of nuclear disarmament and the need of cities to participate in the effort of nuclear disarmament, because “cities are targets and it is unacceptable that cities are held hostage for nuclear policies.” There are currently over 3300 members in Mayors for Peace, and the goal now is 5000 Mayors for Peace before the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation summit takes place in New York in May 2010. In this sense he invited the Mayor of Niteroi to join. The longer term goal of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is to become hosts of the Olympic games of 2020, 4 years after Rio has hosted the game, “in a world free of nuclear weapons” and “to raise the original spirit of the Olympics – peace and a world without wars.” It reminded me of our small act in Copenhagen on 2nd of October to celebrate the start of the World March. Copenhagen was buzzing with the issue of Olympic games at that moment, as the choice of 2016 was made then in Copenhagen, in a building right next to the square where we held our event. And in spite of Obama’s presence to lobby Chicago as the host, the choice of the Olympics committee became – well, Rio de Janeiro!

Aurora Marquina gave a short information about the march, mentioning that we are inspired by the principle “Nothing above the human being, and no human being below another.” She also reminded, that our proposal is a proposal of learning, learning to treat others as we would like to be treated, since inside us we carry violence as we have been educated in a violent environment. She invited the Mayor and other of these neighbours of Argentina to Punta de Vacas – in fact also at the event there was an Argentinean delegation from the Rotary Club of Buenos Aires, who happened to be in Niteroi receiving a prize for their peace activism in Buenos Aires from the Rotary Latin American council.

Lastly, a big steel plate was presented, ceremonial sign that will be raised in a park nearby, which will be named “the Square of Mahatma Gandhi”. A big sign of the World March and a silhouette of Mahatma Gandhi formed the central design of the plaque.

Afterwards, there was a cultural event in front of the City Hall. It is great to witness the cultural diversity and the joy of the World March events – here, great dance performances followed each other. First a youth dance show, but then middle-aged and elderly women, led by two professional male dancers. This performance, where grannies were dancing modern street dance, had no lack of sense of humour with style – and after the modern street piece, then really flaunting it with James Brown’s Sex Machine! Classic show from “Grupo Arte de Dancar”. Third dance show was young breathtaking samba-dancergirls and one guy. We didn’t stay completely stunned however, but took part in the samba show for a short moment, led by our yellow dancing butterfly Petra Klein! And of course today we got to dance more samba in the World March event in Copacabana.

Last dance performance of the Niteroi event was a dance with flags, with parade music. There’s this thing with flags. I among others like to carry and show our world March flag – it’s a source of great pride. Here in Rio the flags of the different football teams are shown everywhere, and the samba schools demonstrate their flag as something very central. Today we saw this in the march in Copacabana, where the small dance performance of the samba school Estacio de Sa was centered around a big flag. The flagpole was tied to the skirt of a female dancer, and a male dancer was presenting and adoring the girl with the flag – I don’t know which one he was adoring more, the flag or the girl. Part of the ceremony was kissing the flag – and he invited some of the marchers to kiss it also, and in exchange the Master of Ceremonies of the World March events in Rio de Janeiro, the actress Priscila Camargo invited him to kiss the World March flag. This happened at least twice during the dance.

On the other hand this thing with the flags has a positive image and idealism to it, but on the other hand the flags have been symbols of power, of hierarchies that are imposed on people with violence. We need institutions that are in the service of human beings and not human beings that are blindly following institutions. These thoughts came to me when standing in the City Hall of Niteroi and the local people were, it seems, singing the national anthem to the flags of the country and the areas of the country, located centrally and above the participants in the council hall. Singing to a flag, to a lifeless object, has a bit strange taste to it, in my opinion.

At least one more event in Niteroi yesterday is worth mentioning: We were abducted by an UFO and found ourselves in a dreamlike atmosphere with beautiful young people and soft bossanova music, eating small balls (space food, we figured) and drinking guarana (energy drink). Actually the UFO-like space station was the museum of modern art, designed by Oscar Niemeyer. There’s no need to bring the march to another planets as of yet – revolution starts at home!

Yesterday and today we had two marches. One was from Niteroi City Hall to the harbour (or almost to the harbour, until it started to rain heavily and we decided that’s it) and another was in sunny Copacabana, the world famous beach in Rio. The Copacabana march was not very big in terms of amount of participants, but its presence in the medias was huge, since national TV channels were present and in such a huge country that means quite a huge amount of spectators.

The contrast to the heat of Copacabana today appeared in the cold of the heights at the Christ the Redeemer statue (Cristo Redentor). A misty mystery was the cloudy weather surrounding us on top of the hill, from where the view to the city and the sea is spectacular – when it is not obscured by the clouds! But the statue itself is also spectacular and shrouded in passing clouds it seemed even more enigmatic. Fleeting moments of brilliance and clarity revealed realities to us in a new light whereas most of the event was spent in a softened light of the cloud of unknowing. The clouds moving fast in the wind, the coloured lightbeams, and behind and above all the massive human-formed statue. In concert halls smoke machines are used in an attempt to create this kind of an impression, but in this heavenly event the creator of the mist-effect was a greater force.

There was a presentation of the Base Team where we all spoke a couple of sentences and Jacqueline Melo, who was in the Base Team from Paris to Dakar and lives in Rio, spoke a bit more. The Rio de Janeiro World March coordinator Marco “Funaba” Pontoya kept the final speech of the event. Jacqueline managed not to cry on stage but Marco was overtaken by emotions after the exceptional evening event.

Between the Base Team presentation and Funaba’s closing speech there was an interreligious gathering in the theme of peace and nonviolence. Representatives of different religions spoke and it concluded with a lot of hugs among all. First speaker was the representative of the host institution, the Catholic church. Other represented religions included Umbanda, Islam, Buddhism, Candomble, Judaism, Evangelic and Baptist Christianity and Bahaiism. Before and between all this, the famous singer Jorge Vercilo sang beautifully.

On associative channels of thought: The Cloud of Unknowing is a medieval Christian mystic text, which says “go after experience rather than knowledge. On account of pride, knowledge may often deceive you, but this gentle, loving affection will not deceive you.” Certainly the aesthetic experience of the evening, as well as the loving affection between the participants made the interreligious event not into a boring discussion of theology, but into a sharing of intentions that were more common than different. The themes of the World March gave that common direction that joined the forces.

Finally this joined force was expressed in a ceremony of recognition and all joined in loud wishes of peace, strength and joy.

20 December 2009

Central America Bus Team

This has taken a few days for me to finish, but here is a photo of most of the people who took part in the Central American leg of the World March.

Central America Bus crew

From left to right:
row 1: Montse, Rafael, Jonathan, Angelika, Cecilia, Fulvio, Felipe, Alberto
row 2: Sandro, Juanita, Gerard, Magaly, Micky, Tomas, Victor, Rafa
row 3: Charles, Isabelle, Miguel Angel, Ester, Kai, Oralia, Tommaso, Sinthya
row 4: Emilia, Pierre, Luis, Sinthia, Guillermo, Tony, Bhairavi, Hugo

We passed through Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.  We unveiled one monument, inaugurated one square and planted one tree among the many, many wonderful activities that the local organisers arranged for us.

It was an absolute pleasure to spend an intense week on our bus with these people.  I’m sure none of us will forget the experience of bringing the World March to Central America.

Thank you to everyone who made this leg of the March possible and so memorable.

With a big hug


19 December 2009

The Brazilian minister of Human Rights, Paulo Vanucci, welcomes the World March for Peace and Nonviolence, in the presence of 26 Ambassadors and government representatives

The Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia was witness to the welcome event on the 16th of December organised by Brazilian authorities for the World March for Peace and Nonviolence.

Present at the event were Ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Benin, Cape Verde, Greece, Israel, Libya, Morrocco, Mauritania, Mozambique, Czech Republic, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Thailand and representatives from the Embassies of Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Cuba, Lebanon, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Pakistan, Dominican Republic, Russia and Zimbabwe.

Everardo Aguiar, President of Amigos da Paz, thanked everyone present for coming, highlighting the participation of the social organisations in the preparation of activities related to the passage of the World March.

National Spokesperson, Alexandre Sammogini, underlined the need to reaffirm the Treaty of Tlatelolco, maintaining Brazil as a denuclearised zone and to advance in the direction of reducing military spending.

The Minister of Human Rights, Paulo Vanucci, welcomed the World March, congratulating the Marchers’ representative and the many organisations that have worked together in the multiple activities planned in these days throughout the country.  Before leaving, he promised those present that he would personally ask President Lula for his endorsement.

Luis Silva

Alexandre Sammogini, Ricardo Marsianesi,  Paulo Vanucci,  Ministro de  Derechos Humanos, Luis Silva, y Everardo Aguiar