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Tom Cornell: nonviolence pioneer

One of my favorite book publishers is Orbis Books, based at the Maryknoll community, a Roman Catholic order, in Ossining, New York. The editor-in-chief at Orbis is Robert Ellsberg, and over many years he and his staff have printed an extraordinary number of titles, many of which have deep, strong social justice themes. For my money, the most significant book in 2008 was an Orbis title: Jim Douglass' extraordinary JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.

North Korea and Nukes

Nuclear proliferation has been "heating up" again as a major issue, with tensions rising between Pakistan and India, Israel and Iran, and the two Koreas — not to mention the U.S. and Russia. In recent weeks, the country that has caused the most global concern is North Korea, since it has tested missile capability and has consistently thumbed its collective nose at the international community. A few days ago, hawkish neo-conservative John Bolton wrote an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times which assailed the Obama administration's foreign policy efforts toward North Korea thus far. FOR friend Frida Berrigan penned the first of four strong responses to Bolton published this Monday in the Times' letters section. Her original text is as follows:

To the Editor:

Kidnapped nonviolence activist released in the Philippines

One of my most memorable international trips was to the southern Philippines in August 2005. I was there to attend an international Muslim-Christian Solidarity Conference that was organized by a Moro alliance network — a group of organizations representing Moro indigenous peoples, many of whom are Muslim — and the National Council of Churches of the Philippines.

More than 95% of the people of the Philippines are Christian, and the small Muslim community is based mostly in the south (primarily on the island of Mindanao) and in the urban area around the national capital of Manila, on the main island of Luzon. For more than a quarter-century, Moro and other Muslim minority groups have fought for self-determination in their home areas as land and water rights have been given to multinational corporations and natural resources have been taken. I was one of about a dozen international participants at the conference, and the Filipinos we met described in depth how the Philippines military has targeted and oppressed many local communities as a result of this long-running conflict.

Signing Up and Staying Home..

A year ago I was a young person looking for opportunities to gain job skills, find adventure, and serve my community. Theoretical discussions and the occasional protest wasn't enough — I wanted to be doing something that would make a difference in a concrete way. I was ready for physical and mental challenges, and to be tested in ways that I never had been. That's when I signed up. Six months, a physical, screening and few tests later, I was in. My life would never be the same — I had joined my local emergency response fire and rescue department.

Picnics for peace

A highlight of the early spring for me and some other local Fellowship of Reconciliation members was participating in an interfaith peace picnic hosted by American Muslim Voice (AMV) in Stony Point, New York. AMV's founder and director, Samina Faheem Sundas, is a Pakistani native living in northern California, who has dedicated her life to interfaith dialogue and peace-building across religious, racial, ethnic, and cultural lines. As a part of that witness, Samina organizes "peace picnics" in communities wherever she travels — we enjoyed an afternoon of fablous South Asian food and in-depth conversation about current political and religious hot topics.

Stopping cluster bombs

[Ed. Note: Tomorrow begins the Global Week of Action Against Cluster Bombs (May 29 — June 4). At a press conference in Geneva, Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action will launch the week by releasing Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice, a 288-page report produced for Landmine Monitor on the new international treaty banning cluster munitions.]

Today I sent this message to New York State Senators. I encourage you to contact your Senator with a similar message.

Debating gay marriage? You'll want "Homosexuality and the Bible"

During recent weeks five U.S. states, plus the Washington DC city council, have dramatically legalized gay marriages. New Hampshire is expected to become the sixth state this week, and New York's state senate is currently debating the issue, with strong support from both the state assembly and the governor. Political leaders, community activists, and educators from across the political spectrum are discussing this hot topic around the nation.

A little food for thought..

Amongst peace and justice- oriented folks, it's fairly safe to say that your first choice for a resolution to any conflict is calm, rational dialogue, right?. Many people reading this might even say that an open dialogue is the ONLY solution to conflict — why should we need war, aggression or threats to work out our differences? But what about in regards to conflicts with your parents, siblings, children if you have them, signifiant others, or the occasional annoying stranger? Are we able to hold ourselves to the high standards (and really hold ourselves accountable) to the grand ideals that we have in place for others?

Sri Lanka: a need for a vision of the future

On 19 May 2009, the Government of Sri Lanka proclaimed an end to the fighting against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelan (LTTE), one of the world’s most enduring insurgencies. The LTTE had once controlled a quarter of Sri Lanka’s territory as they had pressed their campaign for an independent state for the country’s Tamil minority. Some 265,000 people have been displaced during the past several months in this last round of fighting.

Thus the major issue today is no longer calling for negotiations between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE but rather to encourage all parties to look toward the future in a spirit of reconciliation.

July 3 candlelight vigil: A symbol of solidarity and a call to action

I am currently in Iran, traveling with peace activists from Peace Action and Veterans for Peace. Rebecca Griffin of Peace Action West has written several interesting reflections about our trip thus far which she's posted to their blog, and are well worth reading. And with the increased tensions that emerged this week between the U.S. and Iran due to the Iranian missile test, I would like to take this opportunity to launch a new, hopeful U.S.-Iran peace initiative on behalf of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.