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10 December 2009

Beira, day 10 and 11

Day 10/11

Hello!

Yesterday, unfortunately, we did not have our event at the Estoril beach because of  logistics issues L, so we took the opportunity to talk a little about the WM and go the venue of Mondays’ event  in order to settle the last details.
Today we made a short march that lasted 45 minutes at the beginning were very few but by the time we got to the Recreation Center (place were the event would take place) the numbers were sufficient J.
There we had a short conversation in which members of Team Base shared their experiences of travel in the African Route, and clarified some doubts. Then we watched the video “History of Non-Violence”, and finished the event with a football game that was very good!
Samira, Rui and Mauro joined us today from Quelimane, this team now has 6 participants, 4 permanent who joined the Martha and Mauro members of the HM that were in Beira and Quelimane respectively to boost local events .
At noon we had a dinner with local traditional food where about 20 humanists once again talking about the organisms, and the Park.

That’s all for  today, we return tomorrow to write from and about Maxixe!

Photos:

http://picasaweb.google.com/humanismo.mz/EastSouthernAfricaRouteDay1011InBeira#
Hugs
Carla, Ivo, Rui, Samira, Mauro, Marta

10 December 2009

A very official reception inhambane, day 13

Day 13

Today we traveled to Inhambane from Maxixe, we were greeted with song and dance organized by the local municipality. Then followed a caravan, to the mayors office, with participation of 7 motorbikes in front of the cars followed by the Base team and eight cars of government officials, municipallity and artistic groups.

At the the mayors office we had time to have a conversation with the mayor, Mr. Lourenço Macul who made a few questions about the WM and was truly interested in the subject, taking the opportunity Samira invited him to take part in the grand event to be held on January 02, 2010 in Punta de Vacas.
At the appointed time we entered the seminar room that was already full. The event began with Mr. Macul who welcomed the BT and read the message he had prepared especially for the occasion. Very beautiful words spoken!

This was followed by some explanations about the WM given by Samira and also by reading the Charter of an ordinary citizen to the worlds’ powerful by Ivo interspersed by an audio-visual presentation. We also gave a diploma as a thank you to the city of Inhambane.

In the exterior of the building we made a beautiful symbol of peace. This was followed by presentations of various artistic groups that have challenged the skills in dance of the BT(we did well, always under the leadership of Rui – our dancer). One group sang a song that had the message: “boys of WM, carry on with the strength to achieve your goals”. Finally, listening to the sound of enthusiastic timbila we said goodbye to all present!

Tomorrow we expect to talk informally with the city mayor and visit a historic site on the shore of tofo beach.

Many hugs

Photos:

http://picasaweb.google.com/humanismo.mz/EastSouthernAfricaRouteDay13Inhambane#
Carla, Rui, Ivo, Samira, Mauro, Marta, Rosangela, Tania, John

9 December 2009

(Français) En route pour le Guatemala et SOS lancé à la Marche Mondiale (part 1)

Plein les yeux, plein le coeur, plein la tête… Notre journée au Guatemala fut l’une des plus émouvantes pour moi. D’abord, j’ai été bouleversée par une rencontre inattendue et non planifiée par un groupe de civils en colère. Notre bus s’est arrêté au bord de la route et a été pris à parti par une trentaine de Guatémaltèques qui, au péril de leur vie, ont dénoncé devant nos caméras (avec leur autorisation) les abus de l’entreprise espagnole DEOCSA qui opère un monopole absolu sur la production et gestion de l’électricité dans tout le pays occasionnant des souffrances inacceptables pour le peuple. Le 24 octobre dernier, Víctor Gálvez Pérez, porte-parole du Front de Résistance contre les abus de l’entreprise DEOCSA (entreprise filiale de la multinationale espagnole Unión Fenosa) dans la ville de Malacatán (Guatemala), fut assassiné par un individu cagoulé. Mr Víctor Gálvez Pérez menait des activités de dénonciation des effets de l’activité de cette entreprise sur les habitants de la région. Derrière ma caméra, j’ai du mal à retenir mon émotion devant ce cri de détresse “en direct”. “Depuis 10 ans, nous subissons de coupures d’électricité en continu, détruisant nos réserves de nourriture ou tuant nos malades dans les hôpitaux. Des milliers de personnes n’ont pas d’électricité faute de maintenance ou parce qu’ils n’ont pas les moyens de payer des entreprises privées de réparation” s’insurge Ermilio, leur nouveau porte-parole. Ce dernier nous supplie d’intervenir d’une manière ou d’une autre pour les aider à retrouver le droit de vivre dignement et en sécurité. Nous accusons réception de leurs revendications à travers un document qu’ils nous ont remis à l’attention de la presse internationale. Sans attendre et depuis notre autocar, nous avons envoyé un communiqué de presse aux agences (cf vidéo). Dans l’autocar, pour quelques heures, je suis songeuse et triste. Je ne peux pas comprendre qu’une poignée de cadres asservissent en toute (in)conscience des centaines de milliers d’individus les laissant dans la précarité la plus totale. Je suis bien d’avis que toute personne tenue sous la domination de quelqu’un ou de quelque chose doit s’affranchir par lui-même de ses chaînes et ne peut s’attendre à un appui extérieur. En même temps, il est du devoir de tout homme de prendre en compte le sort de son prochain et de prendre la mesure des conséquences de ses actes. Je suis toujours et encore consternée par l’ignorance, la cupidité et l’égoïsme de quelques-uns. Je reconnais la nécessité de la souffrance en ce qu’elle nous permet de connaitre nos limites, de surpasser nos épreuves et la transformer si possible en quelque chose de positif. La violence existera jusqu’à ce que nous apprenions à nous en libérer. Il faut parfois être repoussé jusque dans les derniers bastions de nos peurs, de notre ignorance ou de notre aveuglement pour se décider à ouvrir les yeux. Cela m’aide à supporter les barbares…
Feed: http://cdhal.org/fr/actions/rss.xml

8 December 2009

Viva Mexico!!

We have just spent 3 days in Mexico.  After splitting up in the USA all the other groups headed for Mexico City, but our group, after spending a very nice time with the San Diegans, crossed the hateful border wall into Mexico at Tijuana.  What a contrast!!   Bye, bye Miss American Pie!  Hello land of Tequila, Mariachi, guacamole and Fajitas!

Also you can see the difference in reception.  In San Diego, Paul and Janet worked their butts off trying to get a crowd of 50 people to turn up to their event by the border.  In Tijuana the whole event was sponsored by the City Council.  We had a 5km march through the town (including a scary section on a motorway) which must have had about 500 people taking part.  Then on arrival in the main street, which was closed to traffic, we had a fantastic cultural event with Mariachi music, a fantastic singer, and dancers in which 4 young couples danced together without touching each other – lots of stamping of feet on the ground.  I’m not sure the Brazilians would understand a dance where you don’t touch your partner!

Another nice touch in Tijuana was that on all the lamp posts pendants were hanging with one side a peace symbol and on the other side was a picture specially commissioned for the World March.  It was really impressive.  I asked if the people could bring the pictures to the end of the March and we have an exhibition.  It was incredibly what the city did for us.

We stayed in Tijuana until 11pm then went to the airport where our 12:55am flight was due to take us to Mexico City.  What a complicated process we went through!  First we went into a secure area for check in (bags x-rayed).  Then we checked in, then we had to come out again to go and pay a tax, then we had to go back in again to go to the check in area (bags x-rayed), then we had to go to the departure gates (bags x-rayed).  It was unnecessarily complicated.  On top of that no one in the airport really seemed to know how the process was meant to be.  It was bizarre.

Eventually we arrived in Mexico City at about 3 hours later, but there is a 2 hours time difference, so we arrived at around 6:00am totally exhausted.

Fortunately (and once again take note other countries), the City Council paid for accommodation in a fantastic hotel.  It was a wonderful gesture and we were all very grateful.  We had 2 nights there and it was great to rest and relax in comfortable surroundings with excellent internet access.

The events in Mexico City were on 2 days.  One day of institutional stuff (which I didn’t take part in because I hadn’t slept the night before and there were other issues that needed attention) and one day of public activities with a welcome ceremony, a March and an all day cultural event.  Very nice everything.

It was a bit of a contrast though.  Maybe during our March there were a 1000 people, but later in the evening, just 1 km away from our event the City was turning on the lights on the huge Christmas Tree.  I’m guessing at least 100,000 people came to see that…

People like Christmas, but Peace and Nonviolence is not quite as attractive, yet…

Our last day in Mexico had us flying down to the state of Chiapas.  Chiapas is famous for its Zapatista movement.  I don’t have all the details, but at the heart of the problem are a number of things: first the State is majority indigenous population and there is a huge abuse of human rights, second the State although one of the richest in resources is the poorest in terms of poverty and social development.  In 1994 this social movement arose demanding the rights of the people and was brutally repressed.

The region, which is the border between Mexico and Guatemala suffers similar problems to the USA-Mexico border; namely drug trafficking and immigration.  All of the immigrants wishing to make it to the USA from Central America come through this part of the world, and there are terrible cases of violence, rape, robbery, murder and so on that happen to the immigrants.  It’s distressing to hear about such violence.  I can’t imagine how it is to live in these parts.

Although we had a short time in Tapachula, the city we are staying in, the welcome we received by the President of the region was one of the warmest we’ve received throughout the whole of my time with the March.

We had a press conference where representatives of the media seemed genuinely interested in what we are doing.  Then we met the President and were greeted by some stunning Marimba music and on entry into the reception room we were amazed to see the efforts that someone had gone to, making flags of all the countries of the base team members, putting the names of the countries on labels and putting them into a lovely flower arrangement, giving us postcards and maps of the area and feeding us local food.  It was really touching.  The President presented Rafa with a commemorative plaque and a food hamper and the music went on for a couple of hours.

I think we were all truly amazed.  We really are in the middle of nowhere here, yet these people truly understand the need for peace and nonviolence.  For them it’s not some utopian ideal, it’s a necessity in life…

With a big hug,

Tony

P.S. It’s midnight and we have to be up at 5:00 so there’s no time to do photos today.  Today we were in Guatemala – 14 hours on a bus – Nice :-)

8 December 2009

San Diego

After rubbing shoulders with Hollywood movie stars our group of 5 drove from LA to San Diego.  This is right on the border with Mexico but still very much USA although you get the feeling you are entering into a Spanish speaking country because of the road signs, etc.  But it is still very much Stars and Stripes and pumpkin pie territory.

As we approached the border (our event in San Diego was right by the border) we started to see looming in the distance an enormous Mexican flag and then in front of the where you see the flag you see one of the biggest embarrassments on the face of the planet.  It’s the Mexico-USA border wall, built to divide the peoples of the USA and Mexico all in the name of combating drug trafficking and illegal immigration.  The wall does not reach the whole way across the border but it’s growing.  And already it has claimed more victims than the Berlin Wall did in its entire 30+ year history.  According to reports, two people die every day trying to cross the border.  Of course probably many, many more get through but it is an absolute stain on the USA’s reputation, of course this goes with all the many other stains on the USA’s reputation: the death penalty in many states, the right for ordinary citizens to bear arms, the inability for ordinary citizens to receive health care services free at the point of delivery, the 10,000+ nuclear warheads they possess, the wars they are waging around the world, the trade conditions they impose on the rest of the world, the way they bailed out Wall Street earlier in the year in order to keep the bankers paying their fat bonuses, the inability of same-sex couples to register their partnership and enjoy the rights that their heterosexual counterparts enjoy, etc, etc.

It’s tough to stand up for peace and nonviolence in the USA  because there’s so much work to do!

Going back to the immigrants, the problem is of course the total hypocrisy of the situation – and this hypocrisy exists in many countries including the UK.  When we were preparing ourselves for awkward press questions, one of the questions was what our position on illegal immigration is and of course we have a very clear position.

Firstly “no human being is illegal”.  It is a hateful term to say that it’s illegal to be a human being.  They may be without the documents that the system demands, but they aren’t illegal.  Secondly, who picks the food from the fields? Who are the security guards?  Who drive the taxis?  Who clean the streets?  Who makes the beds when you stay in a hotel?  Who washes the dishes?  And also, who cleans your house?  Who’s looking after your children?  Who washes your car?  Look hard at the answers to these questions and in many cases you will find the “illegal” immigrants.

“Ah!  But they don’t pay taxes!”  What do you mean?  You don’t let them pay taxes!  But wait, they buy things, don’t they?  Of course they pay taxes.  And indeed, given the chance they’d pay more.

Underlying all of the strongest economies of the world is an undocumented, black-market labour force doing all the jobs that the ordinary citizens of the country refuse to do because these jobs are “beneath” them.

So when the politicians denounce the illegal immigrants they are being absolutely two-faced and hypocritical.

Then the other thing is the drug-trafficking.  Let’s look at this question in more detail.  It is well known that the whole drug trade was used very nicely by the CIA to fund all the political coups and military dictatorships in South America during the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.  The USA created their drug culture which was then successfully exported to the rest of the world.  The CIA raised millions and millions of dollars from drug-trafficking.  Now that all their youth are hooked on drugs they try to stop the influx, but the question is why do young people take drugs?  Ok, most of them take drugs for recreational purposes, but why do so many people spend their lives taking drugs and getting drunk?  Clearly it’s not a moral issue; let everyone take whatever they want as long as they don’t harm others.  But when so many people are taking these drugs you have to look at the reasons why.

People today are so totally stressed all the time.  Modern life is a constant struggle to repay debts.  These debts are loaded onto everyone from the moment they leave home for the first time and go to University or college.  The way the Western culture teaches us to relax and unwind very quickly is through drink and drugs.

So, to look at the problem of drugs, you have to look at the problem of the economic system we live in.  Of course no one does this and so the politicians blame the drug-traffickers, they blame the kids taking drugs, but they never blame themselves…

6 December 2009

Beira/Quelimane – Day 9

Hi!
As we said yesterday the group split into two. Samira and Rui went to Quelimane, Carla and Ivo to Beira

We arrived in Beira at  12am, we were welcomed by Marta (member of the Movement that moved here from Maputo in order to streamline the preparation of events). Afer that we had lunch.
In the afternoon we had a meeting with a group of humanists (about 10) who are organizing activities for sunday and monday to know exactly what is the program of the days that follow. We also use to exchange about the organisms.

Because yesterday we only slept 2 hours, we will now rest to be fresh for tomorrow’s event ;-)!

Peace, Force and Joy!

Carla and Ivo

Marta

Marta

At the end of the meeting

At the end of the meeting

more pictures here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/humanismo.mz/EastAndSouthernAfricaRouteDay9

___________________________________________________

Hello

From the city of Chimoio to Quelimane it took more than 10 hours in the bus.
The journey was very long, but we also passed through some
important places like the bridge of  “Unidade Nacional” (national unity). On we went and around 14.30 we reached the city of Quelimane, where
we had a warm welcome from our humanists friends.
We immediately went to the event organized. It was in a garden-terrace. Very beautiful, decorated with WM banners. We had the presence of the representative of the provincial government and mayors office, some local associations and sympathizers.

In the event, we watched the video of the March, Samira spoke about the march
and experience of the African route, with pictures of the places
where we have been so far. There was the speech of the representatives of
government and the municipality, respectively, followed by the delivery of the letter and
diploma to both of them. For entertainment a members of the “Garimpeiros” (a famous local music band) sang and played with great enthusiasm, cheering the event. We finished the event in a great mood, all dancing and singing, appropriate for our own
warm country.
Tomorrow we will start the 7:30 bicycles’ march.

Hug

Rui and Samira

ps: will send the photos tomorrow

6 December 2009

Africaaa! – Day 8

Here you will find photos of the day:

http://picasaweb.google.com/humanismo.mz/Dia8

Hi!

For the  2nd consecutive day, we had to wake up at 3am to get the public bus to Chimoio. After the trip of 6 hours, a significant part in non-asphalted and bumpy road, interspersed by small villages which are likely the people statistics refer to, when they talk about people living on less than a dollar a day.

Our arrival in Chimoio, was followed by a walk of an hour, carrying all the luggage, looking for accommodation (the passage of the march in this city has not had the ideal preparation).
Still, we had a reception at the City Council hastily prepared as soon as we settled (print materials in Portuguese, the ceremony program, etc).

The Municipal ceremony was the 1st act of these 2 days of March in Mozambique, there was an “conscious endorsement” of the president who is committed to provide a place to be called Non-Violence Square.

The rest of the day had two radio interviews and a meeting on organisms with a youth organization in which the mere mention of the Humanist Party involved “a reaction that prevented the dialogue” (The political scene in mozambique is characterized by fear, corruption and disbelief).

In both meetings we delivered thr two charters: “For A world without violence” and a “From an ordinary citizen to the world’s powerful,” and the delivery of a Certificate of Participation which will adorn the walls of both institutions.

Well, it’s again 1 am as I write this and prepare for a trip departing at 4:00 on public transport typically African. In fact, while two sleep, two work because we found accommodation where only two people can to sleep at a time.

Tomorrow the team will split into two “groups” (of two) to  visit Beira and Quelimane in a weekend of simultaneous events in two major cities of Mozambique.

Warm Hug

Carla, Rui, Ivo, Samira

6 December 2009

Day 7 – Zambia Mozambique

Hello

The day began early for the SouthEast Africa team, so by 4 a.m, we had to drive the bus station, where we were to leave Zambia by 5 a.m bound for Mozambique, specifically the province of Tete. The journey from Lusaka to Katete lasted 6 hours, and the border with Katete Tete, lasted more than 1h, our arrival at the border was characterized by problems of lack of transportation from the border to the city, which led to the group would negotiate personal transportation since at the time we reached the border there were no more buses. Followed by a very long trip, about 4 hours on the road.
Remigio and Anayde, waited for our arrival in the city center. After that, a planning meeting and information about the other provinces trough which we will pass very soon. To end the day we had a short interview for the radio at dinner table.
Tomorrow we will leave early towards another city: Chimoio!
Hugs
Carla, Rui, Ivo and Samira

Find some pictures here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/humanismo.mz/EastAndSouthernRouteDay7

5 December 2009

(Français) Washington DC: sur les pas des grandes hommes d’hier et d’aujourd’hui…

1 er décembre

Notre passage à Washington fut une étape particulièrement symbolique pour moi. Je suis née à Washington voilà 43 ans quand mon père était jeune diplomate suisse dans la capitale. Sur les marches du célèbre monument Lincoln où tant de grands hommes en ont fait rêvé d’autres avec leur discours, j’ai pu prendre la parole pour lui rendre hommage, à lui qui à sa manière a contribué à promouvoir le dialogue entre la Suisse et les autres pays. Être ici, sur les pas de mon père comme sur ceux de Martin Luther King, donne du sens à ma vie. Père biologique, père spirituel. Je suis fière de revenir sur le lieu de ma naissance pour témoigner de mon engagement en faveur de la paix et la non-violence au-delà des frontières, des identités nationales et religieuses. Sur cette esplanade où Martin Luther King a tenu son fameux discours “I have a dream” devant plusieurs dizaines de milliers de personnes électrisées par son charisme, nous autres de la Marche, nous nous adressons à un public fantôme. Personne n’est venu à notre évènement aujourd’hui sinon la pluie et une vue imprenable sur le fleuve Potomac. Et bien c’est cela que je retiendrai de cet instant: l’enthousiasme et l’énergie des orateurs s’adressant à rien sinon au frémissement de la pluie auquel se sont ajoutés quelques cris et rires de jeunes touristes chinois bien plus fascinés par les chevaux de la police montée du monument Lincoln que par nos beaux discours.

J’ai été bouleversée aussi par le témoignage de ce jeune vétéran, Josh Stieber, qui après une mission de six mois en Iraq, a déposé les armes, s’est fait objecteur de conscience et dédie désormais sa vie à promouvoir le dialogue au lieu de la terreur. Il a expliqué qu’il était au début, comme ses jeunes camarades, convaincu que la force était la seule manière de faire plier “l’ennemi”. L’expérience lui a démontré que se mettre à table avec ceux qu’il soupçonnait d’avoir commandité des attentats était beaucoup plus productif que la menace et les intimidations. Josh a aujourd’hui un blog sur lequel il milite auprès des jeunes pour les aider à sortir des croyances qui leur ont été inculquées.

Dans la soirée, notre équipe a été reçue avec chaleur et générosité par le Premier Secrétaire de l’Ambassade de Suisse et son épouse, Guillaume et Farin Scheurer dont j’ai le privilège d’être l’amie depuis ma mission en Iran pour le compte de la Croix-Rouge internationale. Nous avions sympathisé en 2003 à Téhéran. Encore une fois, je suis émue de me retrouver dans le même “décors” que celui mon père 40 ans plut tôt… Discussion vive et passionnante avec les hôtes de Guillaume dont les représentants de quelques pays qui soutiennent la Marche mondiale. Explosés de fatigue à 22heures déjà, nous rentrons dans notre pension tenue avec soin et propreté par des membres de la communauté Quakers qui nous accueillent avec les mêmes convictions que les nôtres. Pour l’histoire, les quakers ont joué un rôle majeur dans l’abolition de l’esclavage aux États-Unis. Leur mouvement est l’un des premiers exemples de groupes religieux militant en faveur des droits de l’homme. Il est champion de l’égalité des droits pour les femmes et les minorités religieuses et raciales depuis pratiquement 1640, l’année de sa fondation en Angleterre. Les quakers (littéralement « les trembleurs », d’après la phrase de leur fondateur George Fox recommandant au juste de trembler devant la parole de Dieu) ont été parmi les premières et les plus insistantes des voix à se faire entendre contre l’esclavage et le commerce des esclaves tant en Angleterre qu’aux États-Unis et ils ont été à la tête du mouvement abolitionniste qui précéda la guerre civile aux États-Unis au XIXe siècle.

2 décembre:
Image 1

Matinée passionnante. Nous rendons visite à des membres du Congrès ou à leur assistant dans le célèbre Capitole. Je me suis retrouvée en plein film hollywoodien avec des officiers tirés à quatre épingles et bardés de médailles et d’écussons, des secrétaires en tailleur et en talons hauts, un drapeau américain devant chaque bureau rattaché à un représentant du Congrès, des colonnes de marbre rutilante devant lesquels nous nous sentons très petits…
Nous avons été reçus par l’adjointe du célèbre congressman John Lewis, dernier survivant parmi les organisateurs de la célèbre Marche contre la ségrégation intitulée “Freedom Rides” en 1961, aux côtés de Martin Luther King. Il a été arrêté 40 fois et reste aujourd’hui l’une des dernières grandes figures pacifistes du pays. Nancy Pelosi, chef de file du parti démocrate à la Chambre des Représentants, a elle-même surnommé John Lewis “la conscience du Congrès américain”. Nous avons donc l’honneur de susciter l’intérêt de son assistante, Jamila Thompson, qui nous a reçu comme des amis. Un à un, elle nous a demandé quelles étaient nos motivations et nous a écoutés avec des yeux écarquillés, plein de cette pureté qu’a le regard des enfants encore capable de s’émerveiller. J’ai été touchée par son humilité , sa jeunesse et sa joie de vivre. Elle nous a fait visiter ce bureau qu’elle partage avec l’une des plus grande figures politiques américaines en commentant chacune des photos encadrées relatant les grands moments de la vie de John Lewis et de l’Histoire des Etats-Unis.
Et savez-vous quelle fut la cerise sur le gâteau? Dans l’après-midi même, le représentant John Lewis en personne a fait voter une résolution de soutien en faveur de la Marche Mondiale pour la Paix et la Nonviolence! En voici le libellé (en anglais):

http://johnlewis.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=719&Itemid=1

Comme quoi, nos petits pas commencent à laisser des empreintes bien concrètes…

Nous avons également été reçu par le “staff member” du Représentant Keith Ellison, absolument charmant, ravi lui aussi de notre visite. Il a même tenu ces propos fort sympathiques: “Je me sens complètement confus que Monsieur Ellison n’aie pu se rendre disponible pour vous rencontrer alors que Ban-Ki-Moon a pris le temps de vous recevoir avant-hier!” Nous avons éclaté de rire et on avait presque envie de le prendre dans nos bras.

J’ai été impressionnée par la gentillesse et l’ouverture de ces Américains agissant dans les hautes sphères du pouvoir. Comme j’ai été conquise aussi par la jeunesse d’esprit et la bienveillance de tous ces Américains que nous avons croisés, au cours de notre Marche comme au Capitole. Aujourd’hui, je sais pourquoi je suis née à Washington et je suis fière que l’histoire de ma vie ai passé et repasse aujourd’hui par l’Amérique.

4 December 2009

In the USA

New York was fantastic. I share the experience described by Tony and the great thankfulness for the organizers and the special guest dr. Lafayette for the inspiration and the energy transmitted between us on those moments. Nothing to add about that first day.

On the second day, a group of marchers walked through the clear, sunny and cold streets of Manhattan from Skyline Hotel to Times Square, populated by yellow taxis and massive screens. We also visited the shore in Battery Park to take a photo with the Statue of Liberty in the background. It was freezing and windy, and the statue seemed to be far away (someone should correct the photo a bit with Photoshop so that it looks more interesting), but then we could walk directly from there past Wall Street and other sights to the World Trade Center site, also known as Ground Zero, where we held a ceremony for reconciliation. In the heart of the ceremony was a common call “upon our brothers and sisters around the world to seek resolutions to conflicts that go beyond revenge” and a recognition that we “do not seek to forget nor to forgive, but to understand and to reconcile, so that together we may move forward.” Forgiving is better than revenge, but even in forgiving there remains a judgmental attitude. In true reconciliation and understanding, all such attitudes and dramas fade away and deeper learning takes place.

Video of the Ground Zero event

After Ground Zero, we split in different directions, as on the following day events would take place in various cities of the United States. Others left towards the airport, while a small group of marchers and local organizers headed to the United Nations. We were to meet with General Secretary Ban-Ki Moon. There was ten of us who wanted to go, but place only for nine, so I volunteered to stay behind. Instead of the protocol meeting with the General Secretary, together with our local helper Carlos from Maryland I explored the UN building, where especially interesting was the meditation room established by Gen.Sec. Dag Hammarskjold in 1957, a space of peace dedicated to the builders of peace. And how did the meeting with Ban-Ki Moon go? Click here to watch the video-report.

Then, half of us traveled to Washington by train and half by car, on an American highway with a sea of cars around us, through the states of New Jersey (called “Garden State”, but actually very industrialized), Delaware and Maryland.

In Washington we stayed in William Penn House, which is a house of the Quakers, “the Society of Friends.” On the way from New York in the car Carlos told us some historical facts about the Quakers, who are liberal Christians – actually so liberal that one doesn’t even need to be a Christian to be a Quaker or to participate in their activities..! William Penn is the founder of the State of Pennsylvania, whose capital Philadelphia means “the city of brotherly love.”

William Penn House was a cozy place to stay, like a mixture of a Center of Work (as we Humanists call our places where we do our internal training) and a social center – a group of schoolkids passed by there as we were having breakfast and at the same time downstairs an adult group was having some kind of a conference.

The main event in Washington DC took place on a rainy day – just as in New York, but without big crowds of participants. We had the rare opportunity to enjoy a free morning, and in the afternoon we gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King kept his famous “I have a dream” -speech. The event – mostly with speeches, but also with a beautiful version of the song “We will overcome” – was exactly a tribute to King. See video

The theme of the historical continuance of the work of MLK went on also on our last day in Washington, with a visit to the office of representative John Lewis in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mr. Lewis, who is a veteran of nonviolent struggle in league with Dr. Lafayette, was unfortunately not present, but we had a long discussion with the charming Jamila Thompson, Sr. Legislative Assistant, who wrote extensive notes of the encounter for Representative Lewis. In the walls of the office we found several photos of the civil rights struggle with young John Lewis marching with Dr. King and also with Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. I guess this was the closest to Obama that we got during the visit of the Base Team in the USA – we were laughing about this in the breakfast table: “we’re not going to meet someone who knows Obama, but someone who knows someone who knows Obama!”

On the evening before, President Obama had announced the sending of over 30.000 more troops to Afghanistan. While we need to support him in the positive steps that he is taking, we also need to continue the pressure on the issues where we want changes that he has not delivered. We also met two other assistants of politicians – the assistants of Congressman Keith Ellison (the only Muslim Congressman, by the way) and of Congresswoman Maxine Waters; and all of these Democrat politicians agreed on this point. Finally, our adventures in the labyrinths of the buildings of the House of Representatives and the Congress also resulted in a short meeting with Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who not only signed the Charter for a World Without Violence, but also gave us copies of his Bill to Establish a Department of Peace in the US; dated February 3, 2009, being processed at the House of Representatives.

In Washington, the Base Team members (including Tomy Hirsch), members of the USA WM team (Dennis, Chris, Nicole, Carlos and Yelena) and other friends participated in a dinner with diplomats from the embassies of Switzerland (the host of the evening), Panama and Colombia; and some also participated in a meeting in the Organization of American States. The OAS visit took place at the same time that we were meeting Kucinich, and afterwards we met only very shortly as we all had to rush to our respective airports, so I don’t know how that went.

Now I’m in Minnesota, keeping a little pause from the Base Team and participating in a couple of events of the Finnish community in the Twin Cities of St.Paul and Minneapolis, where my cousin lives. I’ll join the Base Team again in Brazil, in two weeks. Until then, certainly Tony and others will take care of keeping you (and me!) up to date!

World March with an electric car in Minneapolis

World March with an electric car in Minneapolis

4 December 2009

The World March goes to Hollywood

[I’ve added photos to the March in New York: see the entry here and then come back :-)]

It just keeps on getting better and better in the USA!

Of all the places on the World March agenda I had expected this place to be the most low-key.  I came here about 10 years ago and hated the place because it just felt so dehumanised.  It was a city for cars and car-lovers and that was it.  When considering the places to come in the USA after New York I decided on Los Angeles because of my friend Mayra Gomez who threw herself totally into the World March in LA.  I decided to come and give moral support in case things didn’t turn out as hoped.  Boy, did I worry for nothing!

When working with Mayra you have to know that she doesn’t take no for an answer but my god she gets things done!

The 5 base team members who were despatched to LA: Oralia (a new member from Mexico), Kai (with the base team from Africa), Tomaso (videoman who joined us in NY), Micky and myself, were met at the airport by Flip (Phillip) and Nancy our lovely hosts who looked after us like family members throughout our stay in California.  Nancy had organised hundreds of children to draw beautiful peace pictures on paper plates that we displayed during our different activities during the day.  It is hoped that they will all come down to Punta de Vacas and we will find somewhere to display them.

Anyway, the day started at City Hall where Mayra had been going crazy to organise a declaration from the City Council in support of the World March and to declare 2nd December the day of nonviolence in LA.  Until the moment we arrived Mayra wasn’t sure it was going to happen.  Days and days of phone calls, e-mails, personal conversations with assistants and councillors had all got stuck with the announcement of Obama’s troop increases in Afghanistan.  I think they were worried that we’d come in and say embarrassing things in a place that is staunchly Democrat and has backed Obama all the way and now find themselves with a President that is more militaristic than Bush; and that’s saying something.

Mayra was totally clear and said to them, “Look this is about peace and nonviolence, for the City Council to stand up and support this is a “win-win” situation given the situation of violence in the City.”  Fortunately the City saw the logic of the argument and gave us a beautiful declaration and allowed us to address the council.  Several of Mayra’s delegation (including sportstars, actors and activists together with the base team and local organisers) were given the opportunity to speak but only 1 minute each.  If you went over time a buzzer rang and you had to shut up!

It was great fun and after we spoke several councillors stood up and expressed great solidarity and heart-felt support for the March.  Brilliant!!

Among those who spoke were:

Michael Nouri (who was lead actor in the 1983 film Flashdance)

Q’Orianka Kilcher (who played Pochahontas in the 2006 film The New World):

Q’Orianka is extremely interesting, 19, Peruvian by descent, and when she heard of the civil unrest with up to 50 deaths of indigenous people in the Bagua region of Peru due to new laws that would allow oil and mining companies to enter indigenous territories without seeking consent or consultation of the local communities, she went there and took 50 video cameras with her to give to the locals to video what they could of the violent treatment they were receiving.

Anthony Chavez, the grandson of the great (and for me previously unknown) civil rights activist Cesar Chavez who co-founded the United Farm Workers Union and whose non-violent methods such as fasts, strikes and marches led to great improvements in workers rights and the prevention of the use of toxic pesticides on grape production.

Blase Bonpane, who is one of California’s leading, and much loved (from what we saw) peace activists, who has won awards for his peace work in Central America.

Micky and I spoke for the base team.

Then we went to a very lovely event with the local indigenous people, the Tongva nation, whose numbers are as low as 5000 but who continue to fight for indigenous rights and for respect and recognition of their culture, language and sacred lands.  In down-town Los Angeles they have  a piece of land between a motorway and a train line which they are replanting with the old plants of the area including vegetables, flowers and corn to re-establish a traditional way of looking after the land.  It’s very beautiful and a very spiritual place.  I guess it’s spiritual because you decide that it’s spiritual.  I mean, a piece of land is just a piece of land, but if you say to yourself, “this land is special” then it is and you charge it with a certain energy and when you enter it you do so with a certain emotional tone which is different to the one you have in daily life.  This is very nice.

We had a lovely ceremony there.  Mayra, who is herself indigenous and dedicates much of her time to indigenous issues, was in her element, explaining to us what was happening and the meanings of the different ceremonial parts.  We then had a lunch where everyone brought food to share and then went off to take photos at Hollywood!

This was fun.  Micky had us climbing like mountain goats so that we could get just the right picture to show we were here.  It turned out well (see below).

Then if we hadn’t already thought that the day had not been a success, in the evening came the icing on the cake.  A colourful and joyful march of 500 people headed by Martin Sheen (who coincidentally was in the film “Gandhi”) that took us down Wilshire Boulevard to a church where we had a packed cultural/speaker event.  It was so fantastic.  Not just because of Martin Sheen, but because of the turn out and the spirit.  So many different organisations turned out to support the March and the Paper Plates came with us and looked great.  I’m sure some of the crowd came as a protest against Obama’s troop increase to Afghanistan, but that’s perfect.  Let everyone come to these Marches and let them bring their flags, their banners, their demands.  The March is for everyone who believes in Peace and Nonviolence.

As I said in the church when I was asked to speak, “Los Angeles, you’ve done the World March proud.  Thank you so much for your support.”

Many thanks to Mayra, Alex, Sarah, Flip, Nancy, and all those, whose names escape me, who made our day so special.  Sadly we only had one day, but what a day it was…

Big hug

Tony

4 December 2009

(Español) La jaima

(Español) Tras hora y media de camino escoltados por la policía, llegamos a la jaima, montada en medio del desierto. Una orquesta de cuatro músicos enfundados en sus túnicas azules tocaba recostada en una tarima. La gente se iba sentando en un banco recubierto de almohadones que flanqueaba toda la tienda. Yo me busqué una silla, me cuesta doblar la pierna. Sentado a mi lado, en el suelo, el joven intérprete del grupo, como un amable paje. Las mujeres mauritanas estaban espléndidas, habían echado la casa por la ventana. De repente lo vi pasar corriendo, con el aguijón en alto y sentí un escalofrío. De chica había matado muchos escorpiones, levantaba las piedras con cuidado y los atravesaba rápidamente con un palo, luego clavaba el palo en la tierra y los dejaba allí, expuestos al sol, como un espetón. Sabía que picaban a los cosechadores, había oido sus gritos y visto brotar la sangre cuando se daban un tajo con la navaja en la picadura y luego chupaban y escupían el veneno. Eran traidores y yo los buscaba para matarlos. A veces lograba cazar una docena o más, y aquello parecía la escena de los empalados de Spartaco. Pero en la jaima ya no estaba yo para dar saltos, así es que lo vi pasar y deseé mentalmente que alguien lo matara por mí. Casi enseguida se oyeron gritos de mujeres. El alacrán había ido a parar encima de alguien. Afortunadamente sin consecuencias. Yo, por si acaso, me puse los zapatos. El banquete de la alcaldesa fue memorable, con toda clase de bebidas, brochetas, ensaladas, arroces, fruta y media docena de corderos que un par de mozos fornidos despedazaban en el suelo. La alcaldesa tuvo el detalle de darnos un regalo a cada uno. “A usted le hace el honor de dárselo la alcaldesa personalmente”. No sé por qué me eligió, pero sinceramente me sentí muy honrada, la señora me caía bien, tenía una sonrisa franca. Al principio hacía calor y hubo que descoser literalmente las paredes de la tienda. Luego en cambio se notó un bajón brusco de temperatura que nos obligó a abrigarnos. Desde el desierto entraban volando enormes escarabajos, seguramente descendientes de los que tanto abundan en las tumbas de los faraones. Cuando nos fuimos salió a despedirnos una algarabía de color. Me quedé mirando por la ventanilla todos aquellos tocados, los brocados, las túnicas que pronto ya sólo serían un recuerdo, como fuegos de artificio en aquella noche tan oscura.

Por la mañana esperamos inútilmente a que llegara nuestro autobús. Se le había pagado una cantidad y, a la vista estaba, por ser víspera de la fiesta del cordero, un día con mucha demanda, había buscado otro cliente, quedándose con el dinero. Costó encontrar cuatro taxis en los que cupiéramos todos con nuestras maletas. Cargamos diez litros de agua para atravesar el desierto mauritano, pero no llevábamos comida. Por el camino nos fueron parando no menos de veinte controles. Unas veces había que enseñar los pasaportes, otras las cámaras fotográficas, otra, sin ninguna razón especial, nos dejaban pasar, pero no a todos, así es que nuestra pequeña caravana se fue separando, distanciando, reuniendo a lo largo de todos aquellos kilómetros de arena. Yo, que tantas veces he ido en caravana, estaba frita, pero de nada habría servido explicarles cómo se ha de hacer para viajar seguros, porque donde manda patrón no manda marinero. Aunque el patrón no tenga mucho norte. De vez en cuando teníamos que hacer alguna parada para juntarnos, ir al baño, comprar plátanos, cacahuetes, mandarinas. Los niños llegaban como moscas, metían los brazos por las ventanillas, nos pedían dinero y, algunos, fotos, pero no todos, las niñas sobre todo se escondían o salían corriendo. Los poblados en los que nos deteníamos exhalaban un olor rancio a cabra, a cagarruta, a basura descompuesta. En uno había una cabaña revestida de trapos mugrosos. De un gancho colgaba un trozo de carne, a un lado había un tronco ensangrentado lleno de moscas. Aun a falta de rótulo, estaba claro que era la carnicería. Cientos de personas por todas partes y furgonetas cargadas hasta los topes, de gente, de bultos, de corderos. De una de ellas asomaba el cuerpo arrodillado y atado de un camello. Nuestros chóferes no hablaban ni una palabra de francés, así es que no había modo de decirles que no corrieran tanto. Yo me acordaba del París Dakar y me estaba temiendo ver una rueda salir disparada de un momento a otro rodando entre la arena. Todos teníamos prisa, nosotros porque el retraso había dado al traste con nuestros programas, ellos porque les tocaba volver a casa para la cena. La carretera a partir de un cierto punto corría entre dunas, sin que hubiera un alma viva a la vista, y a nuestro chófer, un hombre joven, se le veía cada vez más nervioso y preocupado. Recordé mi traducción del Milione, donde el joven Marco Polo habla del origen del término asesino, procedente del árabe hashshashin, consumidores de hachís, tal como se llamaba a los componentes de la secta religiosa de los ismailíes. Cuenta que los dirigentes de la secta captaban a los jóvenes destinados a asesinar a sus oponentes políticos drogándolos con hachís; una vez dormidos, los llevaban a un jardín secreto de su castillo, en el que despertaban entre árboles frutales, animales exóticos, arroyos de agua cristalina y bellas mujeres. Tras permanecer unas horas en aquel edén, convencidos de que era el paraíso, las doncellas volvían a drogarlos y se les devolvía al punto de partida. Cuando despertaban de nuevo, un líder de la secta les decía que habían tenido el privilegio de conocer el paraíso, al que sólo podrían volver si abrazaban su causa. También contaba Marco Polo que el desierto estaba lleno de cuerpos momificados, de tantos como mataban los asesinos. Ahora parece que los satélites captan el reguero de muertos que va dejando la emigración subsahariana entre las dunas que flanqueaban nuestro camino. Llegamos a Rosso al atardecer. En un visto y no visto los taxistas descargaron y desaparecieron como alma que lleva el diablo. El hotel estaba al lado de la carretera y parecía como si lo hubiesen vuelto a abrir sólo para nosotros al cabo de un letargo de años. Las mesas y los taburetes del bar, con la tapicería rasgada, tenían dos dedos de polvo. Daba la sensación de que sólo había dado tiempo a repasar algo las habitaciones. La sala de estar estaba cubierta en el centro por una alfombra y, adosada a las cuatro paredes, había toda una serie de asientos corridos. El olor a cerrado, las vaharadas de polvo que se desprendían del suelo, de los asientos al sentarse hacían el aire irrespirable. Me senté fuera, en un escalón, dispuesta a escribir, pero me quedé con las ganas, la luz era intermitente. Para cenar nos ofrecieron spaghetti boloñesa  o pollo con patatas. Lamenté no haber comprado plátanos y naranjas. Por suerte las ventanas tenían tela metálica y pudimos ventilar el cuarto, así es que dormí bien, aun con el estómago vacío.

Era la última noche en Mauritania.