Tag Archive | war

Human Rights and Compassion

October 16 is the annual Blog Action Day. Since 2007, bloggers have come together to write on an important issue. Past issues have included Poverty, Water, and Climate Change. The issue for 2013 is Human Rights.
I have had a separate page on this blog for the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. I also have a separate page dedicated to the Charter for Compassion. I believe human rights (the Declaration) and compassion (the Charter) are related and complementary. I believe that we need both human rights and compassion to achieve world peace.

Eleanor Roosevelt and Human Rights Declaration

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights came about following the atrocities of World War II. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Its drafters said:

Man’s desire for peace lies behind this Declaration. The realization that the flagrant violation of human rights by Nazi and Fascist countries sowed the seeds of the last world war has supplied the impetus for the work which brings us to the moment of achievement here today.

Charter for compassion logo

CharterforCompasssion.org

The Charter for Compassion came about from a TED Prize wish of comparative religion scholar and writer, Karen Armstrong. The Charter was developed by a Council of Conscience and was unveiled on November 12, 2009. Sister Joan Chittester,  a member of the Council, said:

In a world where force is too often the response to differences of opinion, culture and ideas of the divine, compassion is its one universal antidote. This Charter gives spiritual voices the opportunity to unite in this most authentic cry for peace.

I believe the Charter for Compassion is an important document-become-movement for our post 9-11 world.

The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins thusly:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge, …

The Charter for Compassion begins this way:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

The Declaration ends:

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

The Charter concludes:

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

I believe we need to think in terms of both rights and compassion. We need both head and heart (and hands and feet, too) to achieve world peace. We do need rights in terms of law. We need them spelled out, stood upon, and accounted for. However, rights themselves can go only so far. We also need compassion and empathy. We need to think in terms of treating each other as we would wish to be be treated — the Golden Rule.

As I have said before, “I believe that a human being is a human being is a human being with all the rights and privileges thereof.” We should all be treated accordingly — even by nations, including my own.

I Declare World Peace.

Thich Nhat Hanh on Terrorism and Compassion

Thich-Nhat-Hanh

This past Sunday, Krista Tippett of the public radio program, On Being, rebroadcast her interview with the Vietnamese Buddhist monk in exile, Thich Nhat Hanh, at a retreat in the United States about. ten years ago. Much of what he had to say is still relevant. Here is an excerpt from the transcript. You can find more on the web  of this particular program here.

In the transcript, Thich Nhat Hanh is referred to as “Brother Thay.”

Ms. Tippett: Some of the things you’ve said about the war on terror, you used the word “forgiveness” right away, and I don’t think that was a word that was anywhere in our public discourse in this country. But I also heard you this morning, when you were speaking with the group, talking about the responsibility of everyone also for policies, global policies. Say some more about that, about what role individuals have to play even in something like the war on terror, from your perspective.

Brother Thây: The individual has to wake up to the fact that violence cannot end violence, that only understanding and compassion can neutralize violence because, with the practice of loving speech and compassionate listening, you can begin to understand people and help people to remove the wrong perceptions in them because these wrong perceptions are at the foundation of their anger, their fear, their violence, their hate. And listen deeply. You might be able to remove the wrong perception you have within yourself concerning you and concerning them. So the basic practice in order to remove terrorism and war is the practice of removing wrong perceptions, and that cannot be done with the bombs and the guns. And it is very important that our political leaders realize that and apply the techniques of communication.

We live in a time when we have a very sophisticated means for communication, but communication has become very difficult between individuals and groups of people. A father cannot talk to a son, mother cannot talk to a daughter, and maybe husband cannot talk to a wife. And Israelis cannot talk to Palestinians, and Hindus cannot talk to Muslims. And that is why we have war, we have violence. That is why restoring communication is the basic work for peace, and our political and our spiritual leaders have to focus all their energy on this matter.

Ms. Tippett: But I think some would say — people in positions of power would say that they simply can’t wait for that communication to happen or for that change to take place, that they also have to act now.

Brother Thây: If they cannot communicate with themselves, if they cannot communicate with members of their family, if they cannot communicate with people in their own country, they have no understanding that will serve as a base for right action, and they will make a lot of mistakes.

Ms. Tippett: I’m wondering if, you know, by way of bringing this back to you and the practice and how you know the practice, if you would read this poem, “For Warmth,” and talk about how you think about anger and how one lives with anger. Being mindful doesn’t take away all these emotions. Right? These human emotions.

Brother Thây: Well, we have to remain human, you know, in order to be able to understand and to be compassionate. You have the right to be angry, but you don’t have the right not to practice in order to transform your anger. You have the right to make mistakes, but you don’t have the right to continue making mistakes. You have to learn from the mistakes.

Ms. Tippett: Mm-hmm. And would you say something about when you — the occasion on which you wrote this poem also?

Brother Thây: I wrote this poem after I hear the news that the city of Ben Tre was bombed, and an American army officer declared that he had to destroy the town in order to save the town. It was so very shocking for us. In fact, there were a number of guerillas who came to the town, and we use anti-aircraft gun to shoot, and, because of that, they bombarded the town and killed so many civilians.

Ms. Tippett: Was it 1965 or something like that?

Brother Thây: Yeah, around that time.

Ms. Tippett: OK.

Brother Thây: [speaking Vietnamese]

Ms. Tippett: [translating]) “I hold my face between my hands. No, I am not crying. I hold my face between my hands to keep my loneliness warm, two hands protecting, two hands nourishing, two hands to prevent my soul from leaving me in anger.”

Brother Thây: When you notice that anger is coming up in you, you have to practice mindful breathing in order to generate the energy of mindfulness, in order to recognize your anger and embrace it tenderly, so that you can bring relief into you and not to act and to say things that can destroy, that can be destructive. And doing so, you can look deeply into the nature of the anger and know where it has come from. That practice help us to realize that not only Vietnamese civilians and military were victims of the war, but also American men and women who came to Vietnam to kill and to be killed were also victims of the war.

[music]

Ms. Tippett: So here’s the question that occurs to me again and again. These root causes are so simple in a way — wrong perception…

Brother Thây: Yes.

Ms. Tippett: …poor communication…

Brother Thây: Yes.

Ms. Tippett: …anger that may have its place in human life but then needs to be acted on mindfully, in your language. Why is it so hard for human beings — and I think this is as true in a family as it is in global politics mdash; to take these simple things seriously, these simple aspects of being human?

Brother Thây: I don’t think it is difficult. In the many retreats that we offer in Europe, in America, in many other countries, awakening, understanding, compassion and reconciliation can take place after a few days of practice. People need an opportunity so that the seed of compassion, understanding in them to be watered, and that is why we are not discouraged. We know that if there are more people joining in the work of offering that opportunity, then there will be a collective awakening.

Ms. Tippett: I look at you and I also see that you view the world through the eyes of compassion, which is another term you use, and that I see the weight of that on you. It is also a burden to look at the world straight and to see suffering and to see the sources of suffering wherever you look.

Brother Thây: When you have compassion in your heart, you suffer much less, and you are in a situation to be and to do something to help others to suffer less. This is true. So to practice in such a way that brings compassion into your heart is very important. A person without compassion cannot be a happy person. And compassion is something that is possible only when you have understanding. Understanding brings compassion. Understanding is compassion itself. When you understand the difficulties, the suffering, the despair of the other person, you don’t hate him, you don’t hate her anymore.

Ms. Tippett: What would compassion look like towards a terrorist, let’s say?

Brother Thây: The terrorists, they are victims of their wrong perceptions. They have wrong perceptions on themselves, and they have wrong perceptions of us. So the practice of communication, peaceful communication, can help them to remove their wrong perceptions on them and on us and the wrong perceptions we have on us and on them. This is the basic practice. This is the principle. And I hope that our political leaders understand this and take action right away to help us. And we, as citizens, we have to voice our concern very strongly because we should support our political leaders because we have help elect them. We should not leave everything to them. We should live out daily in such a way that we could have the time and energy in order to bring our light, our support to our political leaders. We should not hate our leaders. We should not be angry at our leaders. We should only support them and help them to see right in order to act right.

Ms. Tippett: I want to finish because I know I’ve taken a lot of your time. I want to ask you, this is from Fragrant Palm Leaves, which I know is a journal you wrote in the 1960s, but this is about Zen: “Zen is not merely a system of thought. Zen infuses our whole being with the most pressing question we have.” What are your pressing questions at this point in your life?

Brother Thây: Pressing questions?

Ms. Tippett: Mm-hmm. What are the questions you work through in your practice just personally, I wonder.

Brother Thây: I do not have any questions right now. My practice is to live in the here and the now. And it is a great happiness for you to be able to live and to do what you like to live and to do. My practice is centered in the present moment. I know that if you know how to handle the present moment right, with our best, and then that is about everything you can do for the future. That is why I’m at peace with myself. That’s my practice every day, and that is very nourishing.

Ms. Tippett: And I wonder, living that way and practicing that way, does forgiveness become instinctive? Does there become a point where you no longer react with anger but immediately become compassionate and forgiving?

Brother Thây: When you practice looking at people with the eyes of compassion, that kind of practice will become a good habit. And you are capable of looking at the people in such a way that you can see the suffering, the difficulties. And if you can see, then compassion will naturally flow from your heart. It’s for your sake, and that is for their sake also. In The Lotus Sutra, there is a wonderful, five-word sentence. “Looking at living beings with the eyes of compassion,” and that brings you happiness, that brings relief into the world, and this practice can be done by every one of us.

I Declare World Peace.

Peace Day Shout-out

On this International Day of Peace, Peace Day of 2013, I would like to give a special shout-out to the passionate peaceniks:

C_07_LOGO2codepink.org

CODEPINK, along with others, has worked hard to prevent a U.S. attack on Syria and so far has succeeded. CODEPINK has been working hard to Ground the Drones, i.e. stop U.S. drone attacks, and to Close Guantanmo, the infamous U.S. prison of the war of terror on terror.

CODEPINK began with a vigil in front of the White House on November 17, 2002, trying to prevent the U.S.-led War in Iraq. They didn’t succeed in that endeavor, but they have been a group working against war and for peace ever since.

CODEPINK defines itself as ” a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S. funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities.”  (See more here.) That last part of themselves is what they call their Bring Our War $$ Home campaign.

Visit their website,  check them out, get involved online and in action — both men and women.

Along with CODEPINK, I Declare World Peace.

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The Cry of the People

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Photo: Doctors in Fallujah, Iraq are registering hundreds of babies with severe birth defects, which they attribute to Depleted Uranium munitions and other war toxins. [Dr Samira Alani/Al Jazeera]*

 

My husband is rereading Reckoning with Apocalypse: Terminal Politics and Christian Hope by Dale Aukerman (Crossroad Publishing, 1993). He has pointed out to me a passage that quite moved me and pertains to our own world situation:

The Cry of the People

Jews in Palestine during the earthly ministry of Jesus were a subject people under the Roman overlordship. They had virtually no access to the central power of the Empire. The rule under which they lived came upon them from above. They did not have a participatory voice for choosing that rule or the rulers. Jewish collaborators took part as an elite that imposed roman authority, as well as their own, on the masses. That political situation seems quite remote from present-day democracy in the West.

Yet the most significant decision made by Roman authorities during the centuries of the Empire was that of crucifying Jesus of Nazareth, and, ironically, the local population did have a participatory voice in that decision. It was sort of direct democracy between the crowd and Pilate. Much Roman decision-making was oriented toward killing on behalf of the Empire, and the execution of Jesus was in line with that, even though Pilate, who alone had the requisite authority, drew back. But “the people,” incited by their leaders (Mt. 27:20), had their say, and Pilate went along with vox populi.

 When i gaze at photographs of Jews, especially children, being rounded up for Auschwitz, I try to comprehend  for those few something of the tragedy of it all. Anne Frank’s legacy is that of taking us past the incomprehensible numbers into the humanity of who she, a single victim, was. In Jerusalem the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust victims has a building dedicated to the children. At the entrance are a few photographs of haunting faces. And then inside, into the eerie darkness of mirrors and myriad dots of light is read in endless succession name after name, each intimating the unique, unfulfilled human person from among the 1.5 million Jewish children who perished. But for the slain Iraqi children and the hundreds of thousands who continue to die in the aftermath of the war and for the forty thousand children around the world who are given over needlessly to death each day we have no Anne Frank, no Yad Vashem, and hardly any pictures. These children and any who for us would visually represent them have been carefully kept from our view. There were the other Germans, among them Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said, “Only he who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.” If we are not to have our own humanity effaced by the alluring powers of destruction and by the tidal inhumanity of official thought control, we must see those we are not meant to see and cry out for them.

Some in Jerusalem did not join in the cry, “Crucify him!” Luke pictures massive dissent before and after that execution: “And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him…. And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts (Lk. 23:27, 48). Offering continuation of that dissent, some in our time do not merge into the collective readiness to kill. They do not become functionaries for contemporary crucifixion. They withhold consent and live out their resistance to the purpose and deed of taking human life. What is most crucial is the stance: to see all public killing, from capital punishment to nuclear holocaust, as having its historic center in the execution of Jesus and to live life from him in struggle against all death-mongering.

At this moment:

#NoWarinSyria #DontBombSyria #HandsOffSyria

#NoDrones #StopDrones

#NoMoreWar

And always:

I Declare World Peace. (#IDWP)

  *See the article and photos of “Iraq: War’s Legacy of Cancer” by  Dahr Jamail at Al Jazeera here .

Just War, Drones, and Counterinsurgency

I am not a big proponent of  just war theory. I would much prefer Christian Gospel nonviolence and nonviolent resistance or struggle. However,  just war, to me, is over and above realpolitik or political realism. President Obama has said that he is a proponent of just war theory,

There is an article in the August 7 issue of The Christian Century magazine, “Discriminating Force: Just War and Counterinsurgency” by Daniel M. Bell that is worth noting. Bell, says The Century, teaches at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC and at the US Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS.

Here is an excerpt of that article:

In the context of counterinsurgency, drones may actually increase noncombatant risk insofar as they extend the range and opportunities for military strikes to places where otherwise there would be no such threat. In the absence of drone technology, the civilian populations of Waziristan or Yemen, for example would not be facing any attack. They would not not be targeted by an infantry division or by B-52’s. In this context, therefore, drones are decidedly not more discriminating than the alternative — which is no attack at all. When the alternative is not an invasion or carpet bombing, drones increase the risk of harm to noncombatants.

Furthermore, the fact that a weapon may be more discriminating does not mean that it is sufficiently discriminating. The noted military ethicist martin Cook has suggested that drones may be “tactically smart but strategically dumb.” The clear tactical advantage of being able to reach more bad guys while optimizing force protection is overridden by the damage such weapons do to the political aims of counterinsurgency, which is protecting the population and winning hearts and minds, In just war terms, drones may violate the criterion of “reasonable chance of success” because they undermine the political goals of the war.

The way beyond the deficiencies of war as annihilation exposed by the rise of the drones is not a new ethic but a more rigorous, responsible practice of just war. In marked contrast with the permissive vision of just war as it emerges in war as annihilation, counterinsurgency strategy calls for maximum discrimination and the minimum force necessary. This is because the focal point of counterinsurgency is protection of the population. The insurgent or terrorist is trying to provoke the counterinsurgent into using overwhelming force that inadvertently causes significant harm to noncombatants — with the result that the population turns against the counterinsurgents, thereby making victory more elusive.

A more rigorous vision and practice of just war is particularly well suited to the demands of a counterinsurgency because it recognizes that victory is determined by more than sheer destruction of the enemy, Likewise, it embraces a stricter standard of discrimination and proportionality, thereby increasing the security of the population in accord with the demands of counterinsurgency.

After more than ten years of war against an asymmetric opponent, the permissive vision of just war linked to wars of focused annihilation is in crisis. The context of counterinsurgency calls for more attention to the political dimension of war and thus for a more responsible and discriminating use of force. Far from calling for a new ethic, the context calls for a more robust vision and practice of just war.

I Declare World Peace.

Endless War in the Drone Age

This second of two posts on drones features a slide presentation by Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of CODEPINK and author of the book,  Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, 2012. (My previous post on drones is here.) I Declare World Peace, not drones.

Thanks to Medea for sharing publicly.

10 Reasons you should be OUTRAGED on the Drone Wars:

I have been wanting to post on the issue of drones, especially the “killer drones,” but have not been able to get it together. Instead, I am borrowing, in two posts, from others. This is a post from an organizer with CODEPINK who is Yemeni-American.

I Declare World Peace.

Digital footprints

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10. Bombing civilian communities and destroying homes, schools, hospitals, and pharmacies, is a form of terrorism. Saying oops and labeling them collateral damage is not OK. They are human beings with stories and histories. These are War Crimes.

Ex. On Dec 2009, a U.S. Tomhawk cruise missile hit al-majalah, a village in Yemen and dropped cluster bombs all over, killing  14 women including 5 pregnant woman and 21 children (the youngest child was only a one year old.) The cluster bombs resulted in two more deaths a year later after it exploded and injured15 more. No one killed in that massacre was even considered a “militant”. In other words: this was a war crime.

9. It took Diplomatic cables for the U.S. to finally admit they were launching airstrikes and waging a war in Yemen. They’ve been lying to you despite using your money to pay for these wars.

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