Coordinator Introduction This report covers the program activities undertaken by Peace for Life (PfL) during the period January to December 2011.
I. Organizational Development and Movement Building A. Officers Meeting, held in South Korea on Feb. 7-9, 2011. In order to consolidate the gains of the assessment and strategic planning initiated by the Secretariat in 2010 as PfL faces its organizational challenges, a meeting of the moderators was convened in Seoul with the following objectives: (a) To review the Secretariat’s preliminary Assessment, Summing-up and Strategic Planning (ASSUP) report; (b) To approve the revised 2011 Action Plan drafted by the Secretariat; and (c) To facilitate the formation of a functioning and streamlined organizational structure and tighter accountability mechanisms in compliance with the Bogota Continuation Committee meeting’s mandate for an organizational review after two years.
The meeting affirmed the results of the Secretariat’s assessment and approved for endorsement to the Continuation Committee (CC) the proposal to conflate the large and unwieldy CC and the Working Group (WG) into a body to be called PfL Council which meets every two years, and also the proposal to convene an Officers’ meeting once a year. There was also a consensus that PfL should give more focus on consolidation and follow-through of previous initiatives and on country programs specially where PfL has had a presence. The meeting ended with a greater realization of the urgency to establish a truly functioning, if simpler and more streamlined accountability mechanisms, as well as a stronger consensus on the membership issue.
B. IEPC Reasoning Workshops. On May 17-25, 2011, some 1,000 people participated in the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) which was convened on the campus of the University of West Indies to celebrate the conclusion of the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV). The World Council of Churches (WCC) initiated the event to celebrate the gains and achievements of the DOV, which ended in 2010. Peace for Life (PfL) took the occasion to lend its sharp analysis of the structural roots of violence and the role of imperial power as the most formidable force impeding the realization of just peace. This it did by holding three (3) Reasoning Workshops, which was submitted to and funded in partnership with the United Church of Canada. Briefly, these workshops were:
1)Christian Mission and the Struggle for a World Without Empire.Co-sponsored with the Council for World Mission (CWM) and the Kairos-Europa, this was an analysis of the nexus between imperial power and global capital and the provision of biblical foundation for resistance against empire as well as examples in the case of Palestine, Colombia and the Philippines, of how people, churches and social movements resist empire;
2) Overcoming the Violence of Global Imperial Capitalism.In co-sponsorship with Oikotree and Kairos Europa, this was an analysis of the institutional mechanisms of global capitalism and their violent effects in six continents, offering biblical foundation and giving practical examples of how people can build alliances against privatization, liberalization and deregulation for the common good diminishing the violence of capitalism; and
3) Empire and Religious Violence: Imperative of Interfaith Solidarity.Co-sponsored with the Christian Conference of Asia and the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME), this workshop focused onanalyzing the nexus of empire building and religious wars along with the nature of and reason for the rise and spread of violence identified as motivated by religious belief, developing approaches to building interfaith solidarity against the instrumentalization of religion for empire building and militarized globalization and discussing ways of liberating contemporary churches from knowingly or unknowingly being complicit with empire. All the three workshops succeeded in looking for new allies as each were widely attended by participants coming from all over the world. (Attached is the full report on IEPC Reasoning Workshops including Finance Report with the in-kind contributions of members).
C. PfL Constituent Meeting. Since many PfL members have been invited to serve as workshop presenters, moderators and/or part of the organizing or coordinating teams during the IEPC, the occasion was taken as an opportunity to also hold a constituent meeting of its Continuation Committee and its Working Group and to have a pre-event strategy session. The organizational meeting of both the Working Group and the Continuation Committee of PfL was held at the Christar Villas Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica on May 15-16, 2011. It was participated in by eighteen CC members and three guests/observers from South Africa, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Philippines, India, Indonesia, Norway, Germany, USA, Canada, Brazil, Colombia and Australia. Given the huge administrative and organizational challenges that PfL had been facing the constituent meeting came up with two very significant results: 1) the approval of PfL By-laws, which define its nature, its vision-mission-goals and fundamental rules governing the organization, and 2) a tightened organizational accountability mechanisms which is very much needed for an effective and efficient administrative and decision making capabilities of PfL. (Attached is copy of PfL approved By-Laws). C. International Festival of Peoples’ Rights and Struggles. In commemoration of the 35th anniversary of Algiers Declaration of its 35th Anniversary, PfL served as one of the co-sponsors in the International Festival for Peoples’ Rights and Struggles (IFPRS) held at the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City 2-6 July 2011. The IFPRS was a rare opportunity for people’s movements, progressive institutions, groups and individuals across the globe to share and learn from each other about new and longstanding threats to people’s individual and collective rights, while exploring solutions that address the systemic roots of these problems. A broad range of activities including simultaneous forums, workshops, exhibits, strategy sessions, film showings and speak out/march were held in a number of halls and theatres at the UP campus. PfL during this event co-organized with Bayan, a progressive multi-sectoral organization, a workshop on “Militarization and Military Bases”, with the PfL Coordinator serving as emcee. (For reference see the link: http://ifprs.org/index.php/component/content/article/3-home/1-international-festival-for-peoples-rights-and-struggles-a-celebration-of-peoples-struggles-a-festival-of-hope). II. Palestine Initiatives. A. National Workshops and Consultations. Continuing the Programme on Palestine Solidarity which PfL began with its Interfaith Peace Pilgrimage and Solidarity Mission to Palestine-Israel on November 4-12, 2007, three (3) national workshops/consultations were held in November, 2011 under the auspices of PfL for the purpose of mobilizing a joint Muslim and Christian constituency and to develop responses to Kairos Palestine document:
1. South Africa. Co-sponsored by PfL, the Kairos Southern Africa and the Beyers Naude Centre, a conference on "Christian-Muslim Solidarity on Palestine" was held at the University of Stellenbosch on the 8th and 9th of November. A total of 27 people attended, mainly from South Africa. Five internationals were also present: 2 from Tanzania, 1 from Nigeria, 1 from Pakistan and another 1 from USA. In this Conference, Prof. Farid Esack presented his “An Islamic Response to Kairos Palestine”, to which many Muslim leaders and scholars have also affixed their signatures. This is an initiative of the Muslims in PfL to respond to Kairos Palestine from an Islamic perspective which according to the document is a response in a “manner that (a) reflects our inadequacies as Muslims; (b) rejects attempts to co-opt our faith for the agenda of Empire; and (c) offers a vision of Islam that is just, compassionate and recognizes the sacredness of all of humankind while maintaining a particular bias for those whom the Qur'an refers to as the marginalized in the earth (mustad`afin fil-ard). Muslims across the globe are invited to sign this document. (Attached is the Islamic Response to kairos Palestine and the link to sign the document:https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dDUzSFhRUUJ0WEZmZTRWdUtjdm9XN1E6MQ) 2. Philippines.PfL held a “Philippine Interfaith Solidarity Consultation Workshop on Kairos Palestine” on November 14-15, 2011 at the National Headquarters of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. The consultation was attended by around 50 Christian theologians, bishops, seminarians, activists, and 3 Muslim leaders. It was organized by PfL in cooperation with the Philippine Interfaith Solidarity Forum for Palestine (PISFP) with the following objectives: (a) to have a deeper understanding of the historical and geo-political realities of the Middle East and Palestine conflict; (b) to come up with a collective reflection and response to the Kairos Palestine document; and (c) to meet organizationally as PISFP and chart its programs (for news release on this see link: http://www.peaceforlife.org/news/local/2011/11-1130-responsetokairospalestine.html). A theological statement was adopted in response to the Kairos Palestine document titled “Reclaiming the Good News of the Holy Land and the Imperative of Interfaith Solidarity against Empire” which the participants signed and made the affirmation, “This is kairos time for the churches and faith communities in the Philippines to stand on the side of what is true and just on the Palestinian question. Kairos is a moment of realization that our silence on the Palestinian question must now end.” (See full statement at http://www.peaceforlife.org/news/local/2011/11-1130-responsetokairospalestine.html)
3. Brazil. In celebration of International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the First National Meeting of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was held 25-28 November in the Florestan Fernandes National School in Guararema (SP) which brought together dozens of people, including militants and Palestinian refugees, representatives of social movements, ecumenical movements and political parties and other organizations of the Brazilian working class with the support of PfL. The discussions were aimed at the collective construction of common denominators that shall guide the struggle for solidarity and the creation of a social and political movement of an international character, to ensure decent living conditions, work and freedom to the Palestinian people. The goal now is to consolidate a National Committee and the preparation of the Free Palestine Social Forum, scheduled for November 2012 in Porto Alegre (RS). (Attached is the full report entitled “Consolidating a Brazilian Response to Kairos Palestine) B.Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).
The EAPPI, an initiative of the World Council of Churches to provide protective presence and deter human rights violations against the Palestinians, has become part of PfL program beginning 2010 when it hosted in Tagaytay, Philippines the first Asian EAPPI training seminar that year in cooperation with the WCC and trainors from EAPPI UK and Peace Swiss Watch. Two Filipinos, Fr. Christopher Ablon (Iglesia Filipina Independiente) and Rev. Marvin Domoguen (Episcopal Church in the Philippines), have already completed their three-month deployment in the West Bank; while another Filipino, Hadje Sadje (United Church of Christ in the Philippines), is now in Bethlehem completing his term. It is hoped that not only the Philippines, but other Asian countries, such as Korea and India, will soon be involved also in EAPPI. See following link for sample experience of our EAs: http://www.peaceforlife.org/forum/insight/2011/11-0930-domoguen-myeappiexperience.html
As part of the sharing of the experiences of the two Filipino EAs who had completed their deployment in the West Bank, a Forum on Palestine was held at the Union Theological Seminary (UTS), Dasmariñas, Cavite on October 19, 2011. The forum was initiated by PfL in cooperation with the UTS Community and was attended by members of faculty, students, and the wider seminary community. It served as a venue in bringing the issue of Palestine to seminary students and faculty in UTS.
C. PfL has also participated annually with the WCC-initiated World Week of Action for Peace in Palestine. The dates, (last week of April until the beginning days of May) coinciding with the commemoration of the Naqba, is an occasion for churches, community organizations and the wider public around the world, for prayers, education and advocacy work for a just peace in Palestine and Israel.
III. Women, War and Empire. The second half of 2011 saw full-scale planning for the launch of PfL’s five-year program titled “Women for Peace Against Fundamentalisms”, a project aimed at creating international alliances among women of faith, specially Muslims and Christians, who are working to end all forms of religious violence, including hate crimes and terrorism fueled by religious extremism. An 11-member Steering Committee has convened on February 1-4, 2012 to discuss and develop the framework and design of the project. The meeting was hosted by the Interfaith Institute for Justice, Peace and Social Movements at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. National women’s conferences are also planned such as the national Muslim-Christian women’s conference to be held in the conflict-ridden Philippine region of Mindanao in April 2012.
IV. Communication and Resource Development A. PfL Website. The PfL website (www.peaceforlife.org) continues to provide key information about PfL including news and updates, an archive of important documents, materials for advocacy work, statements, campaign materials, articles, and links to related resources and information. Visit our website for a fuller appreciation of this.
B. Facebook. PfL in 2011 has joined Facebook’s social networking to disseminate a wide variety of news or information on campaigns and activities of its partners and members as well as similarly-oriented groups. Our FB link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Peoples-Forum-on-Peace-for-Life/148302835251986 C. Circulars and Mailing List.Communication and exchange of information among PfL members have taken place primarily through e-mail and the mailing lists that we maintain. Also PfL regularly issues and circulates analytical articles and papers through its Forum e-list and related mailing lists.
V. Addendum: A Memorial Service in honor of Rhea Whitehead of the United Church of Canada. On July 7, the PfL Secretariat, together with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines held a luncheon fellowship to honor Rhea thru a memorial service at the NCCP Ecumenical Center. Rhea, a founding member and former partner of PfL, passed away in Toronto, Canada on the night of June 14, with her family close by. Her exceptional ministry as a church and ecumenical leader and as source of inspiration for the founding of PfL were all reminisced in this service by partners and friends. This was followed by another memorial fellowship when Rhea’s husband, Raymond, visited the Philippines on August 26. Ray, a veteran missionary to China, was hosted by the PfL Secretariat to speak at the Union Theological Seminary on various issues as “Liberation Theology”..