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Archive for the ‘Nonviolence’ Category

World Beyond War

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, War on May 11, 2017 at 9:43 am

Please read the very informative article at http://worldbeyondwar.org/f-35-incinerating-ski-slope/  As my friend Bob Kinsey says, “Not the usual Greenwash stuff but real facts in context.”

Thanks, LeRoy

Laugh, don’t fight

In Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, War on May 5, 2017 at 11:36 pm

By Dave Anderson, Boulder Weekly, May 4, 2017
On April 15, a distinctly disturbing event took place in Berkeley,
California. Several hundred proto-fascists gathered in a downtown
park. They were armed and itching for a fight. Most of them were from
out of town and many from all over the country. This was a pro-Trump
Patriots’ Day rally for “free speech” organized online by a far right
alliance of white supremacist/nationalist, alt-right, anti-feminist,
neo-Nazi and militia groups.

They wore motorcycle helmets, ski goggles, gloves and carried weapons.

Many wore masks. Quite a few performed the Nazi salute. Mother Jones
reporter Shane Bauer said it seemed like many had only known each
other on social media and were meeting in person for the first time.

He overheard discussion and debate of obscure far right positions. A
man carried a sign saying “Da Goyim Know” which refers to a popular
alt-right internet meme about how powerful Jews control everything and
silence the critics who expose them.

They wanted revenge for an earlier event on the University of
California campus. In February, a small group of rock-throwing masked
Black Bloc leftists had forced the cancellation of a speech by
Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

On April 15, the far rightists and the Black Bloc fought each other
for hours in the streets. At the end, 11 people were injured and six
hospitalized. Police arrested 21 people on a number of charges.

The organizers of the rally, the Proud Boys, said they had won an
“enormous victory.” On their Facebook page, the Proud Boys said they
are “founded on a system of beliefs and values of minimal government,
maximum freedom, anti-political correctness, anti-racial guilt,
pro-gun rights, anti-Drug War, closed borders, anti-masturbation,
venerating entrepreneurs, venerating housewives, and reinstating a
spirit of Western chauvinism during an age of globalism and
multiculturalism.”

The group’s founder, Gavin McInnes, claims that Proud Boy meetings
mainly consist of drinking, fighting and reading from Pat Buchanan’s
book, Death of the West.

McInnes was a Fox News commentator who left the network because it
wasn’t conservative enough. He’s also a contributor for the racist
website VDARE, where he belittled Muslims and called Asian Americans
“slopes” and “riceballs.” He once received an award for “hipster
racism.” Being a “hipster racist” involves engaging in behavior
commonly regarded as racist and defending your antics by claiming you
are just being ironic or satirical.

The Proud Boys have a frat boy three-degree initiation. You publicly
declare yourself a Proud Boy. Then you get beaten up until you cry out
the names of five breakfast cereals. Finally you get a tattoo. You
have to maintain a “#NoWanks masturbation regimen” at all times. That
is, you can only masturbate once a month. However, Proud Boys can
always masturbate within a yard of a woman if she consents.

Recently the Proud Boys added a fourth degree: fighting the
anti-fascists. They have also formed a “fight club” military arm
called the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights.

Most likely, the battle in Berkeley is only the beginning. The left
will make a mistake if we get into a war with the far right, argues
David Neiwert, an investigative journalist who has been reporting on
neo-Nazis and fascist types in the Pacific Northwest for over 30
years. From his observations and from his reading of history, he says
that fascists provoke violence by their enemies in order to portray
themselves as victims.

Consider what happened in the last days of Germany’s democratically
elected Weimar Republic in the 1930s. The country was in the middle of
a political and economic crisis that left the society on the brink of
civil war. Street violence by paramilitary organizations on the left
and the right increased discernibly. Shortly before the July 1932
parliamentary elections, Prussian authorities reported 300 acts of
politically motivated violence that left 24 people dead and almost 300
injured.

In Berlin, Nazi Party leader Joseph Goebbels deliberately provoked
Communist and Social Democratic actions by marching their storm
troopers into working-class neighborhoods where those parties had
strongholds. Nazi fighters who were injured or killed became martyrs
romanticized by Nazi newspapers, photographs, films and paintings.

“The Horst Wessel Song” became the Nazi anthem. It lionized a
23-year-old storm trooper who was killed in 1930.

Neiwert says, “Fascists… are the ultimate psychic vampires: They feed
off hate. They want to stoke it as much as possible. They want things
to become as violent as possible. They love it when you become violent
and give them martyrs.”

Neiwart says the most successful anti-fascist demonstration he ever
observed occurred in 2005 in Olympia, Washington. A neo-Nazi group
held a rally calling for a “race war.” The townspeople mocked them
with a loud and mostly good-natured musical celebration of diversity.

Their noise drowned out the fascists on the loudspeakers. There was a
troupe of clowns mimicking Nazis goose stepping around.

Don’t punch Nazis. Laugh at them.

NO TO ASSAD’S BRUTALITY NO TO ISIS NO TO U.S. AND RUSSIAN BOMBING AND MILITARY FORCES IN SYRIA FOR A REVIVAL OF THE ARAB SPRING

In Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, War on April 9, 2017 at 9:42 pm

Statement of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy
April 8, 2017
http://www.cpdweb.org/letters/Syria-bombing.shtml

We are horrified by the relentless, cruel attacks of the Assad regime, aided by Moscow and Tehran, on the Syrian people. For sheer brutality the butchers in Damascus have few equals in the world today. But we also wholeheartedly condemn U.S. bombing and military forces in Syria, which will kill innocent people and contribute nothing towards a just solution to the Syrian conflict, while at the same time serving to deepen the reactionary U.S. military presence in the Middle East and reinforce Assad’s rhetorical claim that he is defending the Syrian people against Western imperialism, hollow though that claim may be.

Assad claims to be the only force standing between “stability” and the victory of ISIS, but this ignores the fact that authoritarian, repressive regimes like those in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Syria are highly effective recruiting agents for ISIS and similar jihadis. The other major recruiters for religious extremists and terrorists in the Middle East are the United States and its allies, with their bloody history of intervention and, in the case of the U.S., virtually carte blanche support for Israel. And while President Trump’s missile attack on the Syrian Shayrat airbase may have been limited, such bombing has its own logic, dangerously putting U.S. imperial prestige on the line and thus potentially triggering escalating attacks and counterattacks.

We are witnessing a set of deadly symbioses in Syria: Assad and ISIS use one another as justification for their own savageries, while the United States and its allies on the one hand, and Russia and Iran on the other, point to the very real crimes of one another to excuse interventions which in no way protect or defend the Syrian people, but rather serve their imperial (or in the case of Iran, sub-imperial) interests in the region.

The war in Syria cannot be understood apart from the broader political landscape in the Middle East. The popular revolutionary uprisings of the Arab Spring, from Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain to Syria, Libya and Yemen, offered a glimpse of a democratic and just future for the peoples of the region. For now, they have been thwarted, and in most cases, apparently crushed by a combination of domestic reactionary forces and the support of their foreign patrons.

However, the resistance in Syria has proven amazingly resilient: as recently as March of last year courageous street protests under the slogan “The Revolution Continues” erupted in Syrian cities during the brief cessation of hostilities. As reported in The New Statesman, “When fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra tried to storm one of these demonstrations in the town of Maarat al-Numan, the protesters drowned them out by chanting, ‘One! One! One! The Syrian people are one!’ This is a maxim from the incipient, secular phases of the uprising, in which Syrians struggled to stem the tide of rising sectarian and ethnic tension injected by the jihadists’ engagement in the conflict.” (1)

It is truly a time of colossal, obscene double standards.

We see Donald Trump, along with most of the mainstream media and leading Republican and Democratic Party politicians, hypocritically deploring the massacre of innocent men, women and babies in Syria — while they remain coldly indifferent to the massacres and loss of human life at the hands of the U.S. and the forces it supports in Mosul and Yemen. And meanwhile desperate refugees from Syria’s carnage are cruelly turned away from U.S. borders.

We also see Donald Trump welcoming Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, while brazenly dismissing any human rights concerns and continuing Obama’s policy of generous military aid, despite Sisi’s horrific record of murdering and imprisoning thousands of his opponents. It is safe to predict, moreover, that if and when the Islamic State gains more and more supporters in Egypt in response to Sisi’s dictatorial rule, we will hear a chorus of apologists saying that unsavory as he may be, Sisi as a secularist leader is better than the barbaric jihadis, has significant popular support, and therefore has to be supported.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin, the Russian government and its news agency RT deplore the heartrending destruction of neighborhoods and deaths of civilians in Mosul and Yemen and decry the callousness of the U.S. military — while justifying Assad’s attacks on the people of Aleppo and across Syria. In fact, Russian military involvement, including aerial support for attacks on civilian and military opponents of the regime, has actually played a significant, likely critical, role in keeping Assad’s regime in power.

We completely reject these grotesque alternatives. We urgently hope for a revival of the movements and the spirit of the Arab Spring, which offer the only possibility of breaking out of the death spiral of Middle Eastern politics. Many will dismiss this perspective as impractical, but what is truly impractical is the idea that the great powers, each with its own imperial agenda, will bring justice or democracy. If, against enormous odds, democratic forces are able to wrest an agreement that protects them from continuing slaughter by Assad and ISIS and leaves them in a position to struggle and fight again another day, then their decision to accept such a limited agreement should be respected. But even such an agreement will only be won as a result of pressure from the Syrian people, not through the initiative of outside powers who, despite their differences and rivalries, share a deep hostility to a resurgence of autonomous popular forces in Syria or anywhere else.

Democratic popular forces may be weak today, but our only principled and practical course is to declare our solidarity with their struggles, try to strengthen them, and oppose all those who attempt to subvert and destroy them.

(1) The 2016 demonstration in Maarat al-Numan is described in this New Statesman article
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/03/amid-fragile-ceasefire-syria-s-original-protesters-are-rediscovering-their-voice.

Protests in other Syrian cities are described in these articles:

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/03/syria-ceasefire-aleppo-peaceful-protests.html

https://syriafreedomforever.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/new-demonstrations-throughout-free-syria

Thoughts about what the Syrian airstrike might mean for our work

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on April 7, 2017 at 10:14 pm

The following was written April 6, 2017, by my colleague and good friend Ralph Hutchison of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance in Tennessee — also very active with the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.
There was little warning. That is the nature of a surprise attack. Still, the reality that our country had carried out an act of war against another country was shocking. Knowing that our historic nuclear-armed nemesis is on the other side, on the ground in that country quickly turned my shock into a heavy dread.

There are many reasons for Russia to stand aside in response to the US attack on a Syrian airbase after Donald Trump was affected by scenes of children who had been murdered by chemical weapons.
There are also reasons for Russia to express concerns about a US President deciding to become the global enforcer of UN conventions without waiting for a greenlight from the security council or anyone else—what seems swift and decisive to President Trump could seem abrupt and impetuous to someone else.
And there could be reasons for Russia to take it personally—if Russian personnel were on the ground at the airbase and were killed in the attack, for instance.
The US President will receive accolades or condemnations from members of Congress and others who agree or disagree with his action. He declared his order to strike the airbase was based on the US’s “vital national security interest” in preventing the spread of chemical weapons. Pundits did not blink an eye; we have grown accustomed to defending any action we deign to take by invoking our vital national interest. In this case, no US citizens or military personnel were harmed by Assad’s horrific attack; no US corporate or government properties were at risk. If the US at this moment now holds UN conventions sacred, one can only hope we apply that same solemn obeisance to the Land Mines Convention and, when it enters into force, the Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons.

But the hard looming question of this night is this: What if Russia decides to test the mettle of Donald Trump and the divided United States by countering with firepower in a limited strike? What if Russian personnel were killed in the attack, and Vladimir Putin’s pride requires a concomitant response?
That What If has numbed me this night. That What If is unspeakable on Talk-TV tonight.
How quickly could this spiral out of control—two deeply offended egos, puffing themselves up for the honor of their country, acting decisively, precipitously, provocatively to face down the enemy—
Could one or the other, feeling tested, decide to put any questions to rest by reaching for the nuclear codes?

We pray that would never happen, of course. We pray for our lives, and the lives of future generations. We pray whether or not we believe in God or a god or goddess.
But we cannot pray that it could never happen, and therein lies our deepest problem and the unmasking of the fundamental, fatal flaw in the concept of nuclear deterrence. It could happen.
And the fact that all we can do about it at this moment is pray should motivate every woman, man and child in the country to take up the cause of nuclear disarmament. We don’t all have to be on the same page, we don’t all have to agree on the nuts and bolts or the schedule.
We also don’t all have to sit back and say it can’t be done, because it can. Hundreds of millions of people around the world believe it can. One hundred twenty-three nations that convened last week at the United Nations to discuss a treaty to ban nuclear weapons believe that it can. History says that it can—several countries that once possessed nuclear weapons no longer have stockpiles or manufacturing capabilities. Other countries that could produce their own nuclear weapons have chosen not to.
Only three things are lacking, and they are connected.
One is political will translated into political power—the people, when asked directly, express by large majorities the desire to live in a world free of nuclear weapons.
The second thing lacking is courage to embrace a power greater than our fears.
And the third thing is the liberation of our governing officials in the House and Senate from the golden chains of the nuclear weapons institutions—the corporations and weapons communities and federal agencies that drain the national coffers to build weapons of mass destruction.

Tonight, as we wait to see how Russia might respond and what will happen as this chess game plays out with pieces bathed in blood, we must confront the terrible truth of the times we live in: decisions made by these few men could end us all in one afternoon. Tomorrow afternoon, or the one after that, before we can even reach our children to hug them to our chests.
If that is not acceptable to you, find a group working for the abolition of nuclear weapons—not talking about it, but working for it—and throw yourself behind them. If you belong to such a group already, double down. If you can’t find a group, start one. Nothing is more important.

UN negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons start next week

In Human rights, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on March 21, 2017 at 10:03 am

The first negotiating session of the UN Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons will take place at the United Nations in New York on March 27.

In December 2016, the UN General Assembly decided – by a vote of 113 in favour, 35 against and 13 abstaining – to commence negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, regardless of whether or not the nuclear-armed and allied states join such a treaty.

Impact of the treaty on nuclear-armed and allied States

Even if no nuclear-armed or allied States join the nuclear prohibition treaty, it could impact on their policies and practices.

The treaty could, for example, affirm that the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons are already illegal under existing international law, including international humanitarian law and the UN Charter. This would increase the legal and political pressure on nuclear armed and allied States to phase out nuclear deterrence and join subsequent negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The treaty could also prohibit the financing of nuclear weapons, including by banks and public funds, in the States signing the treaty. This follows a similar practice of governments divesting from corporations making landmines and cluster munitions following the adoption of treaties prohibiting these weapons.

Such action could hit at the heart of one of the most powerful drivers of the nuclear arms race – the nuclear weapons corporations which are making billions of dollars from producing the weapons, and have a vested interest in keeping the arms race going.

UNFOLD ZERO has joined with Basel Peace Office and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, in submitting a working paper to the UN negotiating conference calling for the treaty to include such a prohibition, providing details about how such a prohibition could work, and giving examples of countries that have already divested their public funds from nuclear weapons corporations.

UNFOLD ZERO and PNND hold a consultation in Washington DC with disarmament experts on the nuclear prohibition treaty, nuclear arms control between US and Russia, and the 2018 UN High Level Conference.
UNFOLD ZERO consultations in UN centres and key capitals

From January to March 2017, UNFOLD ZERO and PNND organised a series of consultation meetings with disarmament experts and civil society representatives on the current nuclear disarmament climate, how to build success in the ban treaty negotiations and the 2018 UN High Level Conference, and how to build cooperation between civil society and parliamentarians.

Consultation events were organised in Berlin, Geneva, London, New York, Vienna, and Washington DC.

The outcomes of these events help UNFOLD ZERO and PNND feed into the UN negotiations and build support from parliaments and in inter-parliamentary forums including the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

UNFOLD ZERO at the March 6 ban treaty discussion in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, hosted by the government of Austria, Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Geneva Disarmament Platform. [Photo: GCSP]
Geneva discussions on the ban treaty

A series of informal discussions amongst governments, disarmament experts and civil society organisations is being held at the Palais de Nations in Geneva in March, prior to the start of the UN negotiations in New York.

The discussions, which have been organised by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Geneva Disarmament Platform, have focused on a number of critical issues for the negotiations, including provisions on cooperation and relations with nuclear-armed states outside the treaty, withdrawal provisions and provisions for nuclear-armed States to accede to the treaty.

UNFOLD ZERO has been participating in these discussions along with our partners Basel Peace Office, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.E
Yours sincerely
The UNFOLD ZERO team

Surge in young women planning to run for office

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, War on February 5, 2017 at 2:13 am

If a rookie politician like Donald Trump can get to the White House, why not me? That’s the question that’s prompted a surprising number of liberal young women to consider launching a campaign of their own. – Christa Case Bryant, Politics editor

Story Hinckley, FEBRUARY 2, 2017 WASHINGTON, Christian Science Monitor

Brittany Shearer has always been interested in politics.

She majored in political science in college, and regularly calls her state representatives about issues she cares about, such as education. But something changed when Donald Trump won the GOP presidential nomination last summer: She decided to run for office herself, and aims to get elected to the state Senate in Virginia within the next five years.

“Running for office is more proactive,” says the 20-something Ms. Shearer, who works for Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., as an academic adviser. “I want to bring my own ideas to the table.”

Shearer is not alone.

Since President Trump’s election, young progressive women are flooding political training programs. They are energized by a fear of what a Trump presidency might bring on issues from reproductive rights and climate change to immigration policy and education funding. Ironically, some are also inspired by Trump, a first-time candidate who won the presidency despite a lack of political experience.

For the Democratic Party, this wave of female enthusiasm for politics couldn’t happen faster. In recent years, Democratic representation at the state and local level has declined dramatically, and the party is eager to build up its bench.

“We have never seen this kind of interest in running for office,” says Andrea Dew Steele, president and founder of Emerge America, an organization that offers six-month training courses in 17 states for Democratic women interested in running for office. “We spend a lot of time begging women to run for office. This is unusual: to get women interested without trying to recruit them with numerous conversations.”

Emerge America, which launched in 2005, has witnessed an average increase in applications of 87 percent over the past year. Enrollment for Emerge Michigan, for example, increased from 28 applications last year to 81 applications this year. Emerge Pennsylvania increased from 27 to 72 applications, and Emerge Massachusetts increased from 44 to 82.

Emily’s List, an organization that helps pro-choice Democratic women win elective office, has heard from more than 4,000 women interested in running for office since Election Day. That represents four times more women than had expressed interest in the previous 22 months combined.

Another group, Run for Something, launched the day after Inauguration Day, and has already recruited more than 3,000 women and men under age 35 to run for state or local office. More than half are women, the group says.

Leaders from all three organizations agree: Trump is to thank for this outpouring of interest in elected office. Young women may have considered themselves unqualified for political office before, but Trump has broken down many of the preconceived barriers to candidacy.

“The model of what a politician looks like has expanded for better and worse, and we should take advantage of that for the better,” says Amanda Litman, former email director for the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign and co-founder of Run for Something.

Since 1970, the ranks of women in elective office have grown markedly, but in recent years the numbers have plateaued. Today, women still make up only 19 percent of members of Congress, 25 percent of state legislators, and 8 percent of governors, according to Rutgers University’s Center for Women and Politics (CAWP).

“There isn’t a bias at the ballot box where women win less,” says Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at CAWP and an assistant political science professor at Rutgers. It’s getting women to run in the first place that’s the hard part, she says. “So if today’s political energy results in more women running for office, that will really address one of the primary problems we have had in increasing the number of women in office.”

Dr. Dittmar says it’s too soon to tell if this year’s burst of interest will compare to 1992, after sexual harassment charges against Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings inspired a surge of female candidates. We won’t know until next year, she says.

But in the meantime, Ms. Steele at Engage America and her colleagues at Run for Something and Emily’s List are actively trying to break down the barriers to entry.

“There is the misconception that you might be too young or too inexperienced to run for offices like city council. And you are not. You bring an important point of view if you are a young woman,” says Steele. “We have to recognize that.”

Bree Baccaglini, a 2015 graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, never considered herself “the activist type” until Trump clinched the GOP presidential nomination last spring. Then she decided to quit her job in Washington and she got hired by the Clinton campaign in Ohio. The day after Trump’s election she surprised herself once again: She wrote to Mrs. Clinton and promised to run for political office one day.

“[Trump’s candidacy] pulled back the curtain a little bit,” says Ms. Baccaglini. “It’s easy to keep the idea of running at arm’s length if you believe there is a ‘secret sauce.’ ”

Rachel Thomas, national press secretary for Emily’s List, says many women incorrectly assume they don’t have the résumé, donors, or background to run for office. But “this election flipped a switch in women to really see themselves as political candidates,” she says.

Starting local

On Jan. 22, a day after the big Women’s March, Emily’s List held a training session in Washington to teach interested women the nuts and bolts of starting their first political campaign. More than 500 women attended the session, 200 of whom were under the age of 35. An additional 500 women were on a waitlist.

This interest “speaks to the fact that this march was not just a day of action, but the start of months or years of action,” says Ms. Thomas.

Baccaglini attended the training session and says she was surprised at how young – and determined – the crowd looked. Everyone she spoke to at the event shared the same political awakening, only seriously considering a candidacy after Nov. 8. She attributes part of her own hesitation to attitudes of self-doubt and insecurity attributed to women for generations.

“I learned that, on average, men need to be tapped once to run, women need to be seven times,” she says. “Many men probably aren’t thinking they are masters of finding solutions, or adept at identifying problems, but they give it a stab.”

Baccaglini says she’ll start with a run for city council in her hometown of San Francisco, and would like to run for attorney general of California one day. The Emily’s List training taught her the importance of starting small: “You need a runway for big roles like that,” says Baccaglini. “You need a track record.”

Only 5 percent of state legislators are under the age of 35, a percentage that should be much higher, says Litman. She wants to convince young progressives that local-level positions are valuable and within reach.

“Our big picture goal is building a bench for the Democratic Party, so we need to get people in the first level of state government,” as well as local offices such as city council and mayor, says Litman. “It is a little less sexy, but it is affordable and achievable.”

And, she points out, local office is where a lot of top politicians got their start – from President Obama and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York, both of whom served in their state legislatures, to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, who first served as mayor of Burlington, Vt.

The Return of Civil Disobedience

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, War on January 12, 2017 at 8:05 am

By Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker

01 January 17

The sixties produced a conviction that “democracy is in the streets.” The Trump era may echo that.

n December 6th, less than a month after the election, Vice-President Joe Biden, who was in New York to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award, for his decades of public service, used the occasion to urge Americans not to despair. “I remind people, ’68 was really a bad year,” he said, and “America didn’t break.” He added, “It’s as bad now, but I’m hopeful.” And bad it was. The man for whom Biden’s award was named was assassinated in 1968. So was Martin Luther King, Jr. Riots erupted in more than a hundred cities, and violence broke out at the Democratic National Convention, in Chicago. The year closed with the hairbreadth victory of a law-and-order Presidential nominee whose Southern strategy of racial politicking remade the electoral map. Whatever innocence had survived the tumult of the five years since the murder of John F. Kennedy was gone.

It was telling that Biden had to sift through nearly a half century of history to find a precedent for the current malaise among liberals and progressives, but the comparison was not entirely fitting. Throughout Richard Nixon’s Presidency, Democrats maintained majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The efforts of the antiwar movement to end American involvement in Vietnam had stalled, but Nixon’s first years in office saw the enactment of several progressive measures, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Clean Air Act, as well as the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2016, the Republicans won the White House, maintained control of both chambers of Congress, and secured the ability to create a conservative Supreme Court majority that could last a generation or more. Donald Trump, a man with minimal restraint, has been awarded maximal power.

Last summer, the A.C.L.U. issued a report highlighting the ways in which Trump’s proposals on a number of issues would violate the Bill of Rights. After his victory, the A.C.L.U.’s home page featured an image of him with the caption “See You in Court.” In November, Trump tweeted that he would have won the popular vote but for millions of illegal ballots cast. This was not just a window into the conspiratorial and fantasist mind-set of the President-elect but a looming threat to voting rights. Ten days after the election, the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund released a statement opposing the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, as Attorney General, based on his record of hostility to voting rights and on the fact that he’d once brought unsubstantiated charges of voter fraud against civil-rights activists. But, with a Republican majority that has mostly shown compliance with Trump, despite his contempt for the norms of democracy, the fear is that he will achieve much of what he wants. Even if he accomplishes only half, the landscape of American politics and policy will be radically altered. This prospect has recalled another phenomenon of the nineteen-sixties: the conviction that “democracy is in the streets.”

Movements are born in the moments when abstract principles become concrete concerns. MoveOn arose in response to what was perceived as the Republican congressional overreach that resulted in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. The Occupy movement was a backlash to the financial crisis. The message of Black Lives Matter was inspired by the death of Trayvon Martin and the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Occupy’s version of anti-corporate populism helped to create the climate in which Senator Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign could not only exist but essentially shape the Democratic Party platform. Black Lives Matter brought national attention to local instances of police brutality, prompting the Obama Administration to launch the Task Force on 21st Century Policing and helping defeat prosecutors in Chicago and Cleveland, who had sought reëlection after initially failing to bring charges against police officers accused of using excessive force.

Last July, when the Army Corps of Engineers gave final approval for the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, anxious that the pipeline would threaten their water supply, started an online petition and filed a lawsuit to halt construction. Thousands of activists, including members of Black Lives Matter, and two thousand military veterans went to Standing Rock, to protest on the Sioux’s behalf; last month, they endured rubber bullets and water hoses fired in freezing temperatures. On December 4th, the Army Corps announced that it would look for an alternate route. But, since Rick Perry, Trump’s choice for Energy Secretary, sits on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline (and in which Trump, until recently, owned stock), protesters are settling in for a long winter.

In that context, the waves of protests in Portland, Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., in the days after the election look less like spontaneous outrage and more like a preview of what the next four years may hold. Unlike the specific protests that emerged during the Obama Administration, the post-election demonstrations have been directed at the general state of American democracy. Two hundred thousand women are expected to assemble in front of the Capitol, on January 21st, the day after the Inauguration, for the Women’s March on Washington. Born of one woman’s invitation to forty friends, the event is meant as a rejoinder to the fact that a candidate with a troubling history regarding women’s rights—one who actually bragged about committing sexual assault—has made it to the White House.

The first Inauguration of George W. Bush, in 2001, saw mass protests driven by the sentiment that the election had been stolen. The protests that greet Trump will, in all probability, exceed them: some twenty other groups have also applied for march permits. Given his history with African-Americans, Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, unionized labor, environmentalists, and people with disabilities, it is not hard to imagine that there will be many more to come. The Congress is unlikely to check the new President, but democracy may thrive in the states, the courts, the next elections, and, lest the lessons of the sixties be forgotten, the streets.

A first look at a 21st century disarmament movement

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on December 19, 2016 at 11:49 pm

John Carl Baker, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, December 16, 3016

John Carl Baker is a Mellon-ACLS Public Fellow at the Ploughshares Fund, where he works as political engagement strategist. Baker holds a doctorate in cultural studies, and his work focuses on disarmament movements, late Cold War culture, and critical theory. His current book project examines the intersection between the nuclear freeze movement and the transition to neoliberalism in the United States.
With Donald Trump set to ascend to the presidency, many in the disarmament and nonproliferation community are deeply concerned and searching for a path forward. The comparisons to the election of Ronald Reagan are not perfect, but they do contain at least one kernel of truth. Just as in the early 1980s, those who seek to eliminate nuclear risk today feel left out in the cold—and they are understandably frightened. Much like Reagan’s loose talk about nuclear war, the thought of Trump’s finger on the button sends chills down the spines of experts and laypeople alike.

It is not surprising then that some are floating the possibility of a revived disarmament movement as a counterbalance to the incoming Trump administration, which seems primed to continue and perhaps even accelerate the modernization of the US nuclear arsenal. Here in the Bulletin, Frank von Hippel recently wondered whether a millennial-led “general citizen uprising” against Trump’s policies might include a disarmament component. This is certainly a possibility. But if the “new generation of nuclear disarmament activists” he foresees actually emerges, what might it look like when compared to, say, the nuclear freeze movement of the Reagan era?

In my view, a 21st century disarmament movement will be–and should be–distinct from the freeze in three main ways. It will be intersectional, it will be digital, and it will be confrontational.

The nuclear freeze movement accomplished a great deal in its brief existence. It challenged the Reagan administration to temper its rhetoric and engage with the Soviets. Along with other peace movements around the globe, it helped bring the world back from the brink of nuclear war. These achievements made the joint weapons reductions of the late Cold War possible, and for that we owe the freeze movement a debt of gratitude. But the movement was not without its faults. It presented the freeze policy as a common denominator around which everyone from dissident Republicans to radical leftists could rally and consciously cultivated a public image that was politically moderate and middle class. In theory the freeze movement was a big tent that welcomed all comers, but in practice it tended to be white, affluent, and strangely cordoned off from other activist causes.

A contemporary movement will not be nearly as exclusionary and single-issue oriented. While there are clearly targeted forms of activism today—against police violence, economic inequality, and climate change, to name just a few—no sharp line exists between them, and they are constantly making connections with one another. Black Lives Matter activists point out the links between economic inequality and over-policing, while environmental advocates discuss the disproportionate impact of climate upheavals on people of color and the poor.

Social movements today are foundationally intersectional, and a new disarmament movement will be too. It may emphasize the trade-off between social spending and defense spending, or criticize the orientalist quality of much nonproliferation discourse. It may note the racist and environmentally destructive history of nuclear testing, or draw attention to male domination of the national security sphere. A new movement will face the exclusionary qualities of disarmament activism head-on and replace them with a firm emphasis on diversity and cross-issue collaboration. A revived disarmament movement will acknowledge that its goal cannot take primacy over other struggles but can come to fruition in and through them. Much like the other new social movements, it will see itself as one element in an overarching global push for democracy, civil rights, and economic justice.

Media forms have historically played a significant role in promoting the disarmament cause. In the Reagan era, films about nuclear war proliferated, and activists seized upon them as a way of galvanizing the public against the arms race. These texts were “mass media” in the truest sense of the term. They were delivered instantaneously to huge audiences, who experienced them collectively, whether in the movie theater or the family living room. On one evening in 1983, a stunning 100 million people watched the TV movie The Day After, which portrayed the impact of a nuclear war on a Midwestern community in the United States. In the weeks before and after the film was broadcast, it spurred a nationwide discussion on the dangers of nuclear weapons. The film kept the freeze issue in the public eye and presented an enormous organizing opportunity, which activists were more than happy to exploit.

Mass media are still with us, of course, but a 21st century disarmament movement will likely take a more decentralized, digital approach to media engagement and popular mobilization. Social media has already played an enormous role in organizing new social movements (particularly Black Lives Matter), and a new disarmament movement would no doubt follow suit. Indeed, organizations like the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) are already using digital media forms as a cornerstone of their activism. During the recent UN First Committee session, ICAN and its coalition used Twitter to engage in instantaneous critiques of the nuclear-armed states, calling them out for their hypocrisy and underhandedness in trying to scuttle the ban treaty. They did this not only through expert analysis, but also through appropriately biting humor—sometimes delivered via internet memes. Mainstream US media have been remarkably uninterested in the UN ban treaty discussions, but through digital platforms like Twitter, groups like ICAN are disseminating the latest news, pushing back against the claims of the nuclear-armed states and encouraging newcomers to get involved in the issue. Their success at the international level may provide a model media strategy for a new US movement.

The third and most distinctive quality of a 21st century disarmament movement is that it will be confrontational, a major departure from the freeze in both tactics and strategy. From its inception, the freeze movement defined itself in opposition to radical politics and unilateral disarmament, hence its emphasis on bilateralism, verifiability, and traditional civic participation. It’s true that the freeze engaged in public demonstrations and protest marches (most notably the June 1982 Central Park rally of 750,000 people), but its primary form of political engagement was the ballot box. It eschewed most forms of direct action in favor of state and local ballot initiatives calling for the institution of a bilateral freeze on the testing, deployment, and production for nuclear weapons. These initiatives clearly expressed opposition to the status quo but were non-binding; the hope was that Congress would take up the issue, which it eventually did, with mixed results. The point here is that the freeze movement sought a kind of accommodation with the powers-that-be. This was evident in the policy itself, designed to be non-threatening and bipartisan, and in the freeze’s inoffensive, even patriotic model of political participation: localized voting, public education, grassroots legislative pressure.

Today’s social movements, while not antagonistic to voting and, say, writing your congressperson, do not regard these activities as the end-all-be-all of political participation. They place a much stronger emphasis on protest in its varying forms: rowdy demonstrations, strikes, civil disobedience, the reclamation of public space.

The 21st century is the time of Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, and Fight for $15, and it seems likely that a renewed disarmament activism will take a cue from these movements’ confrontational tactics. Today, the dominant style of protest does not passively ask to be heard, but demands it, by actively challenging an injustice at its source. There is of course a long history of peaceful direct action in the disarmament movement, and activists may revive this tradition in the coming years. The US nuclear weapons complex, spread out over multiple sites across the country, certainly provides ample opportunity for disruptive—but peaceful—protest. Thinking intersectionally, though, activists may focus their ire on the defense corporations of the “nuclear enterprise,” who receive billions from the federal government at a time when many Americans feel economically left behind. So far, inequality activists have not stressed the trade-off between defense spending and social spending. But with the US set to spend $1 trillion modernizing its nuclear arsenal, and Trump adding numerous critics of social welfare programs to his administration, there is significant potential for cross-issue mobilization.

The freeze movement was reluctant to make broader political connections and engage in direct action for fear of being tarred as unserious and left wing. Whether this choice was correct in the early 1980s is open for debate. But today, a raucous intersectionality–digitally savvy but materially focused–seems absolutely essential for preventing a new arms race. This 21st century movement will look radically different from the freeze. Its form will pose a challenge not only to Donald Trump and nuclear modernization but to those of us in the arms control community who sometimes value subdued professionalism over committed action. Still, we should welcome it. A renewed movement will give a much-needed injection of youthful excitement to the issue of nuclear arms control and will help turn the slow drip of progress over the past 30 years into a flood of momentous change. It happened before, and it can happen again.

Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Race, War on December 19, 2016 at 3:19 am

By STEVEN LEVITSKY and DANIEL ZIBLATT, New York Times., Sunday Review, Dec. 16, 2016

Donald J. Trump’s election has raised a question that few Americans ever imagined asking: Is our democracy in danger? With the possible exception of the Civil War, American democracy has never collapsed; indeed, no democracy as rich or as established as America’s ever has. Yet past stability is no guarantee of democracy’s future survival.

We have spent two decades studying the emergence and breakdown of democracy in Europe and Latin America. Our research points to several warning signs.

The clearest warning sign is the ascent of anti-democratic politicians into mainstream politics. Drawing on a close study of democracy’s demise in 1930s Europe, the eminent political scientist Juan J. Linz designed a “litmus test” to identify anti-democratic politicians. His indicators include a failure to reject violence unambiguously, a readiness to curtail rivals’ civil liberties, and the denial of the legitimacy of elected governments.

Mr. Trump tests positive. In the campaign, he encouraged violence among supporters; pledged to prosecute Hillary Clinton; threatened legal action against unfriendly media; and suggested that he might not accept the election results.

This anti-democratic behavior has continued since the election. With the false claim that he lost the popular vote because of “millions of people who voted illegally,” Mr. Trump openly challenged the legitimacy of the electoral process. At the same time, he has been remarkably dismissive of United States intelligence agencies’ reports of Russian hacking to tilt the election in his favor.

Mr. Trump is not the first American politician with authoritarian tendencies. (Other notable authoritarians include Gov. Huey Long of Louisiana and Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.) But he is the first in modern American history to be elected president. This is not necessarily because Americans have grown more authoritarian (the United States electorate has always had an authoritarian streak). Rather it’s because the institutional filters that we assumed would protect us from extremists, like the party nomination system and the news media, failed.

Many Americans are not overly concerned about Mr. Trump’s authoritarian inclinations because they trust our system of constitutional checks and balances to constrain him.

Yet the institutional safeguards protecting our democracy may be less effective than we think. A well-designed constitution is not enough to ensure a stable democracy — a lesson many Latin American independence leaders learned when they borrowed the American constitutional model in the early 19th century, only to see their countries plunge into chaos.

Democratic institutions must be reinforced by strong informal norms. Like a pickup basketball game without a referee, democracies work best when unwritten rules of the game, known and respected by all players, ensure a minimum of civility and cooperation. Norms serve as the soft guardrails of democracy, preventing political competition from spiraling into a chaotic, no-holds-barred conflict.

Among the unwritten rules that have sustained American democracy are partisan self-restraint and fair play. For much of our history, leaders of both parties resisted the temptation to use their temporary control of institutions to maximum partisan advantage, effectively underutilizing the power conferred by those institutions. There existed a shared understanding, for example, that anti-majoritarian practices like the Senate filibuster would be used sparingly, that the Senate would defer (within reason) to the president in nominating Supreme Court justices, and that votes of extraordinary importance — like impeachment — required a bipartisan consensus. Such practices helped to avoid a descent into the kind of partisan fight to the death that destroyed many European democracies in the 1930s.

Yet norms of partisan restraint have eroded in recent decades. House Republicans’ impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 abandoned the idea of bipartisan consensus on impeachment. The filibuster, once a rarity, has become a routine tool of legislative obstruction. As the political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have shown, the decline of partisan restraint has rendered our democratic institutions increasingly dysfunctional. Republicans’ 2011 refusal to raise the debt ceiling, which put America’s credit rating at risk for partisan gain, and the Senate’s refusal this year to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee — in essence, allowing the Republicans to steal a Supreme Court seat — offer an alarming glimpse at political life in the absence of partisan restraint.

Norms of presidential restraint are also at risk. The Constitution’s ambiguity regarding the limits of executive authority can tempt presidents to try and push those limits. Although executive power has expanded in recent decades, it has ultimately been reined in by the prudence and self-restraint of our presidents.

Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Trump is a serial norm-breaker. There are signs that Mr. Trump seeks to diminish the news media’s traditional role by using Twitter, video messages and public rallies to circumvent the White House press corps and communicate directly with voters — taking a page out of the playbook of populist leaders like Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey.

An even more basic norm under threat today is the idea of legitimate opposition. In a democracy, partisan rivals must fully accept one another’s right to exist, to compete and to govern. Democrats and Republicans may disagree intensely, but they must view one another as loyal Americans and accept that the other side will occasionally win elections and lead the country. Without such mutual acceptance, democracy is imperiled. Governments throughout history have used the claim that their opponents are disloyal or criminal or a threat to the nation’s way of life to justify acts of authoritarianism.

The idea of legitimate opposition has been entrenched in the United States since the early 19th century, disrupted only by the Civil War. That may now be changing, however, as right-wing extremists increasingly question the legitimacy of their liberal rivals. During the last decade, Ann Coulter wrote best-selling books describing liberals as traitors, and the “birther” movement questioned President Obama’s status as an American.

Such extremism, once confined to the political fringes, has now moved into the mainstream. In 2008, the Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin linked Barack Obama to terrorism. This year, the Republican Party nominated a birther as its presidential candidate. Mr. Trump’s campaign centered on the claim that Hillary Clinton was a criminal who should be in jail; and “Lock her up!” was chanted at the Republican National Convention. In other words, leading Republicans — including the president-elect — endorsed the view that the Democratic candidate was not a legitimate rival.

The risk we face, then, is not merely a president with illiberal proclivities — it is the election of such a president when the guardrails protecting American democracy are no longer as secure.

American democracy is not in imminent danger of collapse. If ordinary circumstances prevail, our institutions will most likely muddle through a Trump presidency. It is less clear, however, how democracy would fare in a crisis. In the event of a war, a major terrorist attack or large-scale riots or protests — all of which are entirely possible — a president with authoritarian tendencies and institutions that have come unmoored could pose a serious threat to American democracy. We must be vigilant. The warning signs are real.

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are professors of government at Harvard University.

NONVIOLENCE: A STYLE OF POLITICS FOR PEACE – POPE FRANCIS’ MESSAGE FOR THE 50TH WORLD DAY OF PEACE

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Public Health, Race on December 14, 2016 at 1:56 am

GMP2017_ENG

L World Day of Peace 2017: «Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace»
[ Arabic – English – French – German – Italian – Polish – Portuguese – Spanish ]
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Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace
1. At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”,[1] and make active nonviolence our way of life.
This is the fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace. In the first, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity. “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order”. He warned of “the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces.” Instead, citing the encyclical Pacem in Terris of his predecessor Saint John XXIII, he extolled “the sense and love of peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love”. [2] In the intervening fifty years, these words have lost none of their significance or urgency.
On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.

A broken world
2. While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.
In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?
Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.

The Good News
3. Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21). But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (cf. Mt 5:39). When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11), and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword (cf. Mt26:52), Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16). Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts”.[3]
To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed, that teaching “is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This ‘more’comes from God”.[4] He went on to stress that: “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution’”.[5] The Gospel command to love your enemies (cf. Lk 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.[6]

More powerful than violence
4. Nonviolence is sometimes taken to mean surrender, lack of involvement and passivity, but this is not the case. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she clearly stated her own message of active nonviolence: “We in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another… And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world”.[7] For the force of arms is deceptive. “While weapons traffickers do their work, there are poor peacemakers who give their lives to help one person, then another and another and another”; for such peacemakers, Mother Teresa is “a symbol, an icon of our times”.[8] Last September, I had the great joy of proclaiming her a Saint. I praised her readiness to make herself available for everyone “through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded… She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crimes – the crimes! – of poverty they created”.[9] In response, her mission – and she stands for thousands, even millions of persons – was to reach out to the suffering, with generous dedication, touching and binding up every wounded body, healing every broken life.
The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.
Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”.[10] This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”. Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.[11]
The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.
Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”.[12] I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”.[13] Violence profanes the name of God.[14] Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!”[15]

The domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence
5. If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else within families. This is part of that joy of love which I described last March in my Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in the wake of two years of reflection by the Church on marriage and the family. The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness.[16] From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.[17] An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics.[18] I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.
The Jubilee of Mercy that ended in November encouraged each one of us to look deeply within and to allow God’s mercy to enter there. The Jubilee taught us to realize how many and diverse are the individuals and social groups treated with indifference and subjected to injustice and violence. They too are part of our “family”; they too are our brothers and sisters. The politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family. “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”.[19]

My invitation
6. Peacebuilding through active nonviolence is the natural and necessary complement to the Church’s continuing efforts to limit the use of force by the application of moral norms; she does so by her participation in the work of international institutions and through the competent contribution made by so many Christians to the drafting of legislation at all levels. Jesus himself offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount. The eight Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic. Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.
This is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. To do so requires “the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process”.[20] To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world is inter-connected.[21] Certainly differences can cause frictions. But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that “tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,” preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.[22]
I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence. On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”.[23] Every such response, however modest, helps to build a world free of violence, the first step towards justice and peace.

In conclusion
7. As is traditional, I am signing this Message on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the Queen of Peace. At the birth of her Son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will (cf. Luke 2:14). Let us pray for her guidance.
“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers”.[24] In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.[25]

From the Vatican, 8 December 2016

Franciscus

[1] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.
[2] PAUL VI, Message for the First World Day of Peace, 1 January 1968.
[3] “The Legend of the Three Companions”, Fonti Francescane, No. 1469.
[4] BENEDICT XVI, Angelus, 18 February 2007.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] MOTHER TERESA, Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1979.
[8] Meditation, “The Road of Peace”, Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, 19 November 2015.
[9] Homily for the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 4 September 2016.
[10] No. 23.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Address to Representatives of Different Religions, 3 November 2016.
[13] Address to the Third World Meeting of Popular Movements, 5 November 2016.
[14] Cf. Address at the Interreligious Meeting with the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus and Representatives of Different Religious Communities, Baku, 2 October 2016.
[15]Address in Assisi, 20 October 2016.
[16] Cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, 90-130.
[17] Cf. ibid., 133, 194, 234.
[18] Cf. Message for the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 7 December 2014.
[19] Encyclical Laudato Si’, 230.
[20] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 227.
[21] Cf. Encyclical Laudato Si’, 16, 117, 138.
[22] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.
[23] Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio instituting the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, 17 August 2016.
[24] Regina Coeli, Bethlehem, 25 May 2014.
[25]Appeal, Assisi, 20 September 2016.

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