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Men We Love: Many Ways to Peace

3 June 2011 One Comment

By Mary Liepold, Editor in Chief

It’s June again, and for Peace X Peace that’s the month of men. I hope you’ll enjoy these highlights from interviews with:

  • Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Ambassador at Large for Women, Development, and Peace
  • John W. Kiser, Bridgebuilder, Storyteller for Understanding
  • Paul K. Chappell, Myth-Buster and Strategic Wager of Peace

Ambassador Chowdhury and his wife, Mariam Chowdhury

Anwarul K. Chowdhury:
Ambassador at Large for Women, Development, and Peace

In a long and distinguished diplomatic career, Bangladesh Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury has been a tireless advocate for peace, women, children, and the poorest segment of humanity (a UN recognized category that now includes 48 countries). He served as Bangladesh’s Permanent Ambassador to the UN and Ambassador to Chile, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela, as well as its High Commissioner to the Bahamas and Guyana. Between 1996 and 2001, Amb. Chowdhury served as President of the Security Council, President of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Executive Board, and Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). His initiative in March 2000 as the President of the Security Council achieved the political and conceptual breakthrough that led to the adoption of the ground breaking UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
From 2002 to 2007, he served as Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN for the most vulnerable countries.

Earlier he launched a pioneering UN initiative on the culture of peace and chaired the nine-month-long negotiations that led the General Assembly to adopt, in September 1999, the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, followed by the UN-proclaimed International Decade for Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). He established in 1997 and coordinated the Friends of Microcredit at the United Nations, a group of more than 50 Ambassadors to the UN. He was also an early advocate for concerted attention to climate change, highlighting the challenges faced by his own country as well as the most vulnerable small island countries. Among other honors, Ambassador Chowdhury has received the U Thant Peace Award, the UNESCO Gandhi Gold Medal for Culture of Peace, and the Spirit of the UN Award.

Ambassador Chowdhury, what inspired you to choose diplomacy as a career and to work for peace?
As a child I had no particular idea about that. I was just curious to know many things, curious to know many people. I love people. It was when I graduated from the university that I felt very strongly that a worthwhile opportunity to serve my country would be to join the diplomatic service. The freedom struggle and the birth of Bangladesh coincided with my young adult years, and the new government sent me to the United Nations as its advocate. I was closely involved in the negotiations from 1972 to 1974 that secured Security Council approval for Bangladesh’s full membership in the United Nations. It was one of the impoverished countries in the world, buffeted by war and natural disasters, and it needed international understanding and support.

How did you become sensitized to the issues that have engaged you over the years?
Three things shaped me with regard to issues of peace, equality and rights. One is my parents, my mother and my father. I admire them both very much. The second is the freedom struggle for Bangladesh, and the third is the nature and environment of my land. All these together have a profound and ever-lasting imprint on me.

Tell me what you mean by a culture of peace.
As the UN Declaration on a Culture of Peace emphasizes, peace not only is the absence of conflict, but also requires a positive, dynamic participatory process where dialogue is encouraged and conflicts are solved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation. I believe the flourishing of the culture of peace and nonviolence will generate a mindset that is the prerequisite for the transition from force to reason, from conflict and violence to dialogue and peace. It will provide the bedrock to support a stable, progressing, and prospering world―a world that is at peace with itself.

To be truly globally oriented, today’s leadership needs to ensure that the relevance of nonviolence, tolerance, and democracy is inculcated in every woman and man, children and adults alike. I believe very earnestly that nonviolence can only truly flourish in a culture of peace, when the world is free of poverty, hunger, discrimination, exclusion, intolerance and hatred – when women and men can realize their highest potential and live a secure and fulfilling life.

I believe that peace and solidarity are not possible in the real sense unless and until each and every one of us contributes collectively and individually in building the culture of peace and nonviolence in our own lives. The leadership for peace and solidarity needs to focus on empowering the individual so that each one of us becomes individually an agent of peace and nonviolence. I will not have the credibility to aspire for world peace if I am myself not a true believer and reflector of peace and nonviolence in my own life.

As Mahatma Gandhi has said, “Nonviolence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being.” Without individual commitment, global peace and solidarity is not possible, and is even meaningless. We have to succeed together, or together we shall perish.

The time for the culture of peace has come. It is no longer an idea or just a concept. I believe it is growing into a global movement.

Please tell me about the Human Right to Peace movement and the Santiago Declaration. They’re not yet well known.
More than a decade ago, in 1998, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a group of civil society organizations launched a global campaign for the recognition by all of the human right to peace. They declared, “We are convinced that it is high time for the human right to peace.” They elaborated by underscoring that the right to live is not applied in times of war. This contradiction and the undermining of the universality of human rights must be ended by the recognition of the human right to peace.

I’m very proud to say that civil society organizations have been the most forward-looking in advocating for recognition of this right. They adopted a milestone charter in October 2006, The Luarca Declaration on the Human Right to Peace. That articulates forcefully the universality, interdependence, and indivisibility of the human right to peace and the overriding need to achieve international social justice.

Organized by the Spanish Society for International Human Rights Law, the International Congress on the Human Right to Peace, held in Santiago on 9 and 10 December 2010, concluded with the adoption of the Santiago Declaration on the Human Right to Peace and the establishment of the International Observatory of the Human Right to Peace.

Nearly 1800 civil society organizations, as part of a global alliance, jointly forwarded the Santiago Declaration to the UN Human Rights Council to consider it at its session, this month in Geneva. A broad-based consultation with civil society, academics, and lawyers was held in New York last March for briefing and raising awareness. On 24 March this year, the “Coalition for Support to the Human Right to Peace” was launched by civil society in Worcester, second largest city of Massachusetts. A consultation is being held in Washington DC on 6 June 2011, bringing the issue to the seat of the US government.

Ambassador Chowdhury Chairing the UN Security Council

What are the prospects for recognition of the Human Right to Peace by the international community?
I believe that global solidarity will not be achieved without the recognition and realization of what are known as the enabling human rights―that is, the right to peace and the right to development.

The human right to peace movement is an attempt to respond to the perils of the globalized, interconnected, interdependent world. Dismissing the human right to peace as vague and declaring that it offers nothing new is an exercise that misses the mark. The emphasis on a human right to peace is innovative and addresses a whole swath of new and interconnected global challenges. The value and validity of this initiative will be realized and appreciated more and more as we are increasingly challenged by the global complexity of achieving sustainable peace. Most of the UN membership are now in support of the Human Right to Peace, but are aiming at achieving a global consensus.

Who are some of the peace pioneers you most admire?
Obviously the names of two great apostles of peace and nonviolence, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. come to my mind first. Mother Teresa continues to inspire me, and I would never forget her gentle encouraging words to work for peace. Of course, Nelson Mandela is a living symbol of peace, and, as a member of the Security Council, among others, I had the opportunity to benefit from his experience in structuring peace in Burundi, particularly with the substantive contribution of the country’s women. Another man of peace who continues to inspire and encourage me in my work for the culture of peace and for advancing women’s equal and essential role in all decision making levels is the philosopher and humanist Daisaku Ikeda, a visionary who has devoted more than five decades of his life to working for a truly peaceful and secure world for all.

You came to the UN from a small, young country. How have you been able to accomplish so much?
I realized early that the United Nations recognizes commitment, engagement, and determination. It is a place where a country’s representative has equal opportunity to make her or his mark irrespective of a country’s political, economic, or strategic power. As a matter of fact, I believe that as the representative of a small, otherwise “powerless,” country, without a unilateral national agenda to pursue, I had greater opportunity to devote my time and energy for issues that have the potential of bringing increased benefits for humanity as a whole. Given this, the only thing that I needed is a strong desire to work for peace, development and human rights so the international community as a whole can benefit from the work of the UN.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to PXP readers, women around the world?
Two things: First, I would like them to believe with their head and heart that the seeds of peace exist in all of us, and they must be nurtured by all of us―individually and collectively―so that they flourish. Peace cannot be imposed from outside; it must be generated from within.

Second, and equally important, remember that adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women, who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture. It formally brought to global attention the unrecognized, under-utilized, and under-valued contribution women have been making to preventing war, to building peace, and to engaging individuals and societies to live in harmony. Never fail to raise your voice in asking for full and effective implementation of 1325.

John W. Kiser

John W. Kiser:
Bridgebuilder, Storyteller for Understanding

John Kiser is a former technology search consultant, a philanthropist, a pig farmer, and the author of four books with a fifth on the way.
Commander of the Faithful, Kiser’s biography of the 19th century hero Abd El-Kader, was the impetus for the Abd El-Kader Education Project, which aims to revive his memory and example. His previous book, The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria was the basis for the stunning new French film Of Gods and Men. Kiser is a Board member of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy and the World Council for Religion and Peace as well as an honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Science, Urals Branch.

How do you describe yourself, John?
I am sort of a contrarian, but over the years other people have characterized me as a bridge-builder. This has not been my conscious intention. It is my natural tendency to get out of my social bubble, to seek out people and situations that are different. My first experience was as a relatively privileged 16-year-old Manhattanite spending summer months in the furnace heat of East Texas oil fields, working with roustabouts who thought New York was a foreign country. At first they thought I was some kind of pet poodle, but I showed up on time and did my work and won their respect, and they won mine as decent hard-working people―even if they did have some strange ideas on racial questions. After getting a BA in history at U. North Carolina, I spent a post-grad year in Goettingen with a German working class family who spoke not a word of English. In the 1960s, after graduating from Chicago Business School, I worked in mostly black Tuskegee, Alabama for the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s Model Cities Program. (At the time, the South represented rednecks and KKK and I went there with trepidation. Met all kinds of new people and viewpoints!)

But my real interest was Russia. The Cold War. I wanted to “know the enemy.” Visited there briefly while a grad student at Columbia and then again when I graduated from business school. I learned along the way that most Russians had only good feelings toward Americans. A few years later I was advising the US State Department on the technology potential of Soviet Bloc countries, then started a business brokering deals to acquire the rights to those technologies. My first book, Communist Entrepreneurs (Franklin Watts, 1989) was about advanced technologies that were coming out of the “evil empire”―including laser eye surgery (Russia), soft contact lenses (Czech Republic), and space power systems (Russia).

My strength, my history is working in different cultures. I’ve never had difficulties relating to people. When you go into another culture, just be respectful, know their language and history, and empathize rather than condemn or judge. Condescending or superior attitudes don’t make for good relations―whether between individuals or between governments.

My life changed in 1994 when gave my business over to an associate and took my family to France for a year. That’s when I seriously started writing books, and a book about that watershed year is now in preparation. My year in France made me realize that living with Muslims was going to be a big issue for the world. They have the good, bad, and ugly varieties like everyone else. Ethically, though, we draw from the same well. I became interested generally in how to mitigate the rising Islamophobia and supported projects like the 1999 PBS Frontline feature The Muslims, with its portrayal of four families in four parts of the world. My last two books serve that purpose, but I wrote them without an agenda other than following my interests. I like adventure. Life is an adventure!

How have these book projects changed you?
The change began while I was still running my tech business and realized from my clients that the technology that matters most in any business is developing good relationships, getting along with people and leading effectively. I decided I should read the Bible as a source of wisdom on human affairs. I was lucky to find a good teacher, a French priest in Vence.

Until then, I had made the same mistake people make today about Islam or any religion: “Ah, they’re all hypocrites.” I had allowed bad practice to discredit good. It’s interesting. We don’t give up on families because of the child abuse, wife beating, and all the horrible stuff we hear about. But now we hear constantly about “bad Muslims,” and the steady drip, drip, drip of negative information erodes reason. So I guess these books show the face of Islam through the monks and through Abd El Kader. From the monks I learned know-how for living together in community, but also about the different Islams. These stories were a product of my year in France, which led to an interest in France’s tortured relationship with Algeria, and then to the “Commander of the Faithful” himself, with his Vatican II thinking 100 years in advance.

What trait in yourself do you value most?
The trait I’m still working on is humility. You don’t make progress in life without it. I think I do get relating to different people, empathizing, appreciating differences. The French say “La difference c’est la richesse.”

Our culture does not value self-control, self-restraint. It’s all about consuming, satisfying every impulse. I like the monastic culture because it’s stripped down to essentials: work, prayer and reflection.

When people give commencement addresses they quote this thing about the butterfly effect, how the wingbeat of a butterfly in the Amazon can affect global weather patterns. I have come to learn that very small gestures of good will, politeness, consideration can have huge consequences, yield huge rewards. They cost nothing, and the results can be enormous. I’ve heard people say George Bush became President of the United States because he sent handwritten thank-you notes.

Covers from John Kiser's books

And your current project?
I’m working with Kathy Garms from Elkader Iowa, and others to take the El Kader narrative nationally and internationally. We launched in Elkader, Iowa, the town named for my Muslim hero where hardly anyone knew who he was. But that was then. Now the essay contest has gone statewide and there are parallel projects in Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

This Algerian who died in 1883 and was hailed by Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria, the Pope: He was beloved across social, ethnic, national and religious lines―a warrior, a saint, a scholar, a poet; a statesman, nation-builder, humanitarian. He impressed everyone who met him, and most of all he impressed his “enemies.” The peak of his career was when, after fighting the French for 15 years and spending 5 years in jail because they didn’t keep their promises, he was in exile in Damascus and a pogrom was underway against the Christians. He intervened and with his Algerians saved somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 lives. He quoted the Koran to the rioters: “When someone kills one innocent, it is like killing all humanity.”

Viewing Islam through the lens of the Taliban―which is probably much more Pashtun culture than Islamic―would be like seeing Christianity through the worst nativist elements of the Tea Party. Abd El Kader embodies the best of the Islamic tradition, and the best of humanity. I want to get this story into the educational bloodstream, so it becomes the next Three Cups of Tea. His Islamic code for fighting a war was a draft of the Geneva Convention: You don’t kill innocents, or destroy nature, or abuse prisoners, mutilate dead bodies, shoot someone in the face, or kill monks or priests.

I’m not a fan of even well-mannered wars. What do you think of the prospects for real peace?
First, peace is not the absence of war. Real peace must be based on justice and intelligent empathy, not simply physical domination. Virtually all the wars in the Middle East today have roots in colonial arrogance and, in the case of Israel, in Western bestiality toward Jews. Start practicing peace at home, with your family and your neighbors. People who are reconcilers have peace within. For a woman or anyone to be an effective peacemaker you need deep spiritual qualities. Women who try to succeed by acting like men don’t change anything. As long as our foreign policy is driven by the desire to dominate and the conceit that our rampant individualistic and narcissistic culture is better than all others, I don’t see much hope.

So you think it’s about culture change?
Yes, culture change, education, and humility. Otherwise, the US is headed to become the General Motors of the Western World. Remember Charley Wilson’s famous statement, “What’s good for GM is good for the USA??” Sure.

Paul K. Chappell

Paul K. Chappell:
Myth-Buster and Strategic Wager of Peace

Paul Chappell, born in 1980 to a Korean mother and a biracial American father, credits his officer training at West Point for encouraging him to question war. Though the questions were uppermost by 2006, he volunteered to go to Iraq in a position where he hoped he could save lives. He read Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., kept his eyes open, and published his first book, Will War Ever End? A Soldier’s Vision for Peace in the 21st Century, while still on active duty in 2007. By the time he published The End of War: How Waging Peace Can Save Humanity, Our Planet, and Our Future, in 2010, he had left the military to write, speak, and promote the skills of peace leadership.

Currently employed by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, based in California, he travels the country talking to diverse audiences and training other peace-wagers. His presentations are salted with quotes from General Eisenhower, General MacArthur, and General Omar Bradley, so when he quotes Major General Smedley Butler, who said “War is a racket,” he has the attention of those who most need to hear his message. Because Paul reserves significant blocks of time for work on his upcoming third book, Peaceful Revolution, the passages that follow are reprinted with permission from an interview with Leslee Goodman (PDF) in The Sun, April 2012.

So how do we wage peace, Paul?
First we have to challenge the myths that support the institution of war. It can be done. Look at slavery. It was a global institution that had been around since the beginning of recorded history. It’s in the Bible. Every country had some form of it. It built the economies of most of them. What made people believe it was possible to abolish state-sanctioned slavery? Did all these slave owners suddenly look in the mirror and realize they were bad people? No, slavery was rationalized through a myth that said it was in the nature of some races, or certain subgroups of races, to be slaves. Today if I said, “White people yearn for freedom, but black people don’t,” you’d think I was crazy, but that’s what people used to believe: A cat’s happy being a cat; a dog’s happy being a dog; a slave is happy being a slave. And just as I’m a kind master of my sheep and my horse and my dog, I’m a kind master of my slave. To let my slaves go would be morally irresponsible, just like letting my sheep go. They would die! They need my protection.

Then, during the eighteenth century, some thinkers put forth the idea that all humans yearn for freedom. Further, it was recognized that you have to use harsh methods to suppress people’s yearning for freedom. After that we had the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and slave revolts around the world. People started to think it wasn’t a part of some people’s nature to want to be slaves.

Now many of us believe the myth that human beings are naturally violent, so war is inevitable. Look at who benefits from that myth. If human beings are naturally violent, politicians can’t be held responsible for making war; they’re just trying to protect us from the violent people all over the planet. Weapons makers can’t be held responsible; they’re just trying to help us defend ourselves. But in truth humans aren’t naturally violent, so we’re all responsible. War is a choice. General Omar Bradley, a veteran of World War II, said, “Wars can be prevented just as surely as they are provoked, and we who fail to prevent them share in guilt for the dead.”

In all human history there has never been a grassroots movement for war, where the people have begged their government to attack another country. War always comes from the top down. The people are typically reluctant to go to war, and the government has to use propaganda or force to get them to go. There have been grassroots campaigns to end slavery, to end apartheid, to secure the rights of women and workers, to save the whales, to save the planet, but there has never been a grassroots campaign to go to war against people in a distant land.”
. . .

Imagine if America’s reputation around the world was strictly for providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief; if, whenever there was a disaster, the Americans came, helped, and left. Then if terrorists attacked the U.S., world opinion would be on our side. We wouldn’t have to defend ourselves against terrorists; the rest of the world would do it for us!
. . .

One thing I learned at West Point is that in order to think strategically you must be able to see the world from your opponent’s point of view. And from the point of view of the average Afghan, the U.S. military is there to keep a corrupt government in power. Many don’t see us as peacekeepers.”

Paul and a friend at a peace convention in Kenya

Do you have a suggested solution in Afghanistan?
There are a lot of them. It’s like Howard Zinn said, “Between war and apathy there are a thousand possibilities.” We don’t have to militarily occupy a country for it to achieve democratic progress. We could support democratic institutions within the country. There are forces within Afghanistan who want democracy, who want women’s rights. We could provide support to those people — not in the form of guns and bombs and weaponry, but through constructive aid.

Human beings aren’t naturally violent. We’re told that human nature is the reason for war, but the way I see it, military history shows how nonviolent we are.

Will we ever stop getting fooled by the propaganda?
I think so. Look at Europe: For five hundred years Europe was the bloodiest place on earth. That was why Europeans were able to conquer every continent: the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia. The Europeans waged so much war among themselves, they made warfare a science. When they went abroad, other cultures couldn’t compete with European armies who’d been practicing for five hundred years.

But now look at Western Europe. Can you even imagine the Germans fighting the British, or the British fighting the Italians? If the leader of Germany said, “We have to attack France,” Germans would say, “Wait a minute. We’ve heard this before.”

The problem with the peace movement is that it doesn’t give people better alternatives to fight terrorism and keep the world secure.

How would you design a peace strategy for the U.S.?
Long-lasting social change has to come from changing the way people think. So I would challenge the myths that support war, and I’d explain that the economy is unstable because of war; the jobless rate is so high because of war; there’s no money for cities or states or education because of war. In other words, I would make the costs of war immediate and apparent to citizens, while showing that war doesn’t make us safe. Because when people believe that war protects their freedom, families, and way of life, they are willing to pay any price.

What do you say to people who consider peace a noble but naive ideal?
Anyone who thinks ending war is naive hasn’t put enough thought into it. What’s naive is to think that wars can continue and humanity will survive. It’s naive to think the planet is a limitless resource. It’s naive to think that we can create ever more powerful means of killing each other and not destroy the planet.

Still we seem to be firmly in the grasp of the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about. Can we really free ourselves?
Think about the civil-rights movement. At that time the people who maintained segregation controlled the government, the news media, the universities, the military, and most of the money. What did the activists have? The truth. We now acknowledge that African Americans are not inferior to whites; that racial harmony is possible; that it’s unnatural to keep black and white people separate. It was the same with the women’s-suffrage movement: Women were denied the right to vote because they were thought to be intellectually inferior to men. And men controlled the government, the media, the military, and most of the money. But truth was on the side of the women’s movement.

How will we win? We have the truth.

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One Comments to “Men We Love: Many Ways to Peace”
  1. Onni Milne says:

    WOW!!! Thank you for this wonderful article. I feel hopeful after reading it. There are people, here and now, who make it possible for us to rethink war and create peace. As a child of parents who survived WW II concentration camps, I know the effects of war first hand. I look forward to the day when peace reigns. I am doing what I can to make it happen in my time though it is difficult when an idealogue like Stephen Harper governs my country like a dictator even as he uses words like “democracy”.

    Here is a poem I wrote in 1980. This is what I want to say about peace:

    WE’VE GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN OUR HANDS

    The women at Greenham Common stand together, holding hands as they make a circle around the nuclear base.

    We stand together, holding hands as we make a circle around Mother Earth.

    PEACE.

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