The blade the bullet and the bomb know no morality, they have one purpose only, to kill and injure. Those who wield these weapons of destruction have choices; they are moral beings who have chosen the way of violence. This choice is informed by their beliefs and their beliefs informed by their chosen cause or ideology; or both.

If choosing the way of violence is based upon an extreme ideology then they have adopted an uncompromising  view of the world and how it should be ordered which requires them, and their co-believers, to spare nothing or no one in pursuit of their ultimate aims; barbarity is unleashed, violence spirals and any semblance of humanity abandoned; they appropriate for themselves the appearance of an irresistible force. However, as in the paradoxical proposition “What will happen if an irresistible force meets and immovable object?” nothing in nature is absolutely irresistible and nothing is absolutely immovable. In the gritty realities of power struggles action and reaction happen by degrees and each mirrors the worst aspects of the other and thus violence breeds violence “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” (From the Christian Gospel)

Am I describing Daesh? I could also be describing Cromwell’s Model Army in the England of 1640s or Fascist regimes in Europe in the 1930s and 40s. All believed themselves invincible all were ultimately vanquished. Their legacy was and is more violence. Violence breeds violence.

(Quote)”The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that”. Martin Luther King Junior

Plato said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

Violence breeds violence and its siblings are: vengeance, reprisal and retaliation. Governments, as well as individuals, adopt these siblings and unleash them at will.  To break the spiral of violence we must contend with these forces of vengeance and violence at their root cause.

All wars end. Either through attrition, intervention, diplomacy or capitulation conflicts cease. But the end of conflict is rarely the beginning of a sustainable peace; too often the end of fighting is merely the impression of peace when in reality it is an armed truce vacillating between possible futures.

For years, America the UK and their allies have appropriated to themselves the mantle of a global, interventionist morality. This policy has been seen by many as either little too late or at worst disastrous for all concerned. For the first time in modern history the consequence of this deeply flawed morality has brought the victims of intervention, in seemingly overwhelming numbers, onto their shores and into their streets. Traumatised, at times half dead, physically and psychologically scarred, starving and despairing they are as much the West’s casualties as any of our armed forces killed or injured in recent wars. Violence breeds violence.

From the violence suffered by traumatised refugees coming to our shores, a new violent reaction is being embodied in the resurgence of reactionary, populist political forces in America, Europe and elsewhere. The populist slogans they scream and chant are a repudiation of the so called liberal, democratic values which have dominated international discourse since 1989. These new forces are indifferent or opposed to any assertion of international morality. They will use violence (rhetorically and actual) to secure their nation’s borders, engender a patriotic siege mentality and practice isolationism from global intervention; rather than try and do intervention better they prefer not to do it at all.

In the Levant, Western influence has waned and is seen as fatally flawed, other regional powers have filled the vacuum but they have historical and ideological agendas which are inimical to the West.

The West, meanwhile, is verging on economic bankruptcy; the UN is also deprived of funds and in thrall to the Security Council, the new American regime is inexperienced and lacks credibility and Europe is fragmenting as a political project. Western intervention seems to be reduced to targeted military strikes in the Levant and anxiety about trade deals elsewhere. The West seems gripped by a moral inertia. So from where will arise new energy for global conciliation and rapprochement come? Russia, China, Turkey, India? Are we in a diplomatic winter?

(Quote from Quran)  “There is no good in most of their secret talks save (except) (in) him who orders Sadaqah (charity in Allah’s Cause), or Maa‘roof (Islamic Monotheism and all the good and righteous deeds which Allah has ordained), or conciliation between mankind; and he who does this, seeking the good Pleasure of Allah, We shall give him a great reward” (Quran, Surah An-Nisaa, 114)

If the Great Reward goes to the conciliators of this world (“Blessed are the Peace makers” Quote from Christian scriptures) then we need an uprising of peacemakers and an army of reconcilers. (The Aramea Foundation, NCF, IoC?). We need a coalition of the willing who will work tirelessly and sacrificially for Peace; demanding a renewal of ethically based foreign policies, a renewal of internationalism, reaching out to enemies and bringing light to the darkest places.

As a person of faith I know faith’s shortcomings but I also know its power to inspire and transform lives and situations and to give vision and hope to humanity in its days of darkness:  “To turn spears into pruning hooks and where people will study war no more” (Quote from Jewish Scriptures).

Faith must play a significant role in post conflict Syria and Iraq, Syria and Iraq will also need all the goodwill that can be mustered and a Marshall type plan of economic and civic reconstruction unprecedented in modern times. This is the cost of the West’s repentance and the East’s intransigence and the Middle East’s incoherence.

Within any plans for the possible futures in the war torn areas of the Levant, their  must be a plan for  the future of Jerusalem, that city set on a hill which is the rallying point for so much human longing for God.

May we find new hope, new vision and new determination to shape a future where it is not the dead who see an end to war, but the living.

 

Fr Larry Wright

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The Next Century Foundation at the United Nations – Intervention on Discrimination and Intolerance against Women

The Next Century Foundation took part in the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. During the General Debate on Item 9 “Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance” the NCF delivered an oral intervention on the issue of gender discrimination in the Arab States urging them to take the necessary steps in order to improve women’s conditions, following the recent example of Bahrain.

FGM: Why have we not eradicated it yet?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) causes severe bleeding and health issues including cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth. It affects at least 200 million girls and women alive today. Despite this, very few charities, Non-Government Organisations or activist groups focus on this as one of the most serious issues the globe currently faces. FGM could be eradicated within one generation yet the current response to FGM by government and the media is one of denial and inaction. Why is this?

Image result for fgm

The UN defines FGM as all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and this is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

FGM is a global problem, not just an issue facing central African countries, and should be tackled as such. The UN have been ignoring the prevalence of FGM globally most particularly in parts of the Middle East and Asia. Indian activist, Masooma Ranalvi, recently urged governments and donor countries to help fund research and data collection in Asia at the 2017 ‘Ban FGM’ conference in Rome. This would allow a much better picture of the seriousness of FGM across the globe and would help to spotlight which countries and cultures need the most attention.

It is not just a lack of funding and research which undermines attempts to eradicate FGM. Many cases of FGM go unreported but cases which are reported tend to have very lenient prison sentences. This sends the wrong signal to those who continue to practise FGM. In January 2017, four people were prosecuted for FGM after 17-year-old Mayar Mohamed Moussa died from undergoing a procedure in Egypt. Mayar’s mother and doctor were given a fine of £1000 (EYP) and a suspended sentence of only one year. Lawyer Reda Eldanbouki, who was representing Mayar, expressed shock at the sentences saying “it is unfair and unjust and will be ineffective as it sends the wrong signal”.

A serious side effect has occurred because of the pressure that is starting to be put on communities that perform FGM in Africa. There are a greater number of reports suggesting FGM is being performed on much younger girls and in the dead of night in order for people to avoid the consequences of the law. This ‘under the radar’ approach makes it more complicated for authorities to effectively deal with the problem. The UN and human rights groups need to come together to stop these inhumane procedures by educating people on the dangers of procedures being done incorrectly or in unsanitary conditions.

We have an obligation as compassionate humans to eradicate FGM and help to rebuild the lives of the millions of women and girls it has already affected.

Darfur: A forgotten conflict

The conflict in Darfur is worse than ever, the Government’s forces and militias continue to kill civilians with complete immunity (the rebels to a lesser extent too, but they tend to target government forces), yet the atrocities remain completely out of the news.

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Journalists lazily continue to quote 300,000 deaths, despite the fact that they have been using that figure since 2005! It must be millions of people dead by this point, and that’s before we think of the drought, floods (very bad this month, destroying the crops) and poverty. More babies are dying today and each day from severe malnutrition across Darfur but no one knows or is doing anything about it. The UN has described Sudan’s western Darfur region as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with more than 2.3 million people having been displaced, most of them living in squalid camps in Darfur and neighbouring Chad (this figure is based on the 2015 figures which has yet to be updated – further evidence of a lack of interest in the region). Peacekeepers and aid workers have restricted access to those in need, yet the ongoing hardships for the people of Darfur is eclipsed by other crisis such as the Syrian Refugees. The conflict flared in 2003 when rebels in Darfur took up arms, accusing the government of neglecting the region. The government responded with a counter-insurgency campaign. Since then, civilians have come under attack from government troops, pro-government militia and rebel groups. Arab militias are also fighting each other, and there are frequent clashes between tribes. Levels of violence fell after 2005, but have risen since the start of 2013. Nearly 400,000 people were displaced in the first half of 2014 alone.

The question remains, how do we help people to realise the issues that plague Darfur and pay at least some attention to them?

South Sudan: A war of Ethnicity or a Power Struggle

President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Vice-President Riek Machar Teny during happier and more agreeable times.

South Sudan is arguably experiencing its greatest level of crisis since its independence in 2011. President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his deposed Vice-President Riek Machar Teny have divided the country and caused a civil war that does not appear to be coming to an end, despite poorly conceived and ill thought out token UN sanctions that were issued in August 2015 and the threat of more if a ceasefire was not called. The country has been plunged into chaos since the war began in 2013, caused by a mixture of personal problems and ethnic conflicts. President Kiir and Vice-President Machar represent the two largest ethnic groups, Nuer and Dinka, and the apparent ethical reasons for war has created extreme tension, distrust and hatred amongst the South Sudanese people. Amnesty International have documented instances of door-to-door searches for men of particular ethnicity and in one case reported that 200-300 Neur men were shot at a police station in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Other instances of mass killings, sexual violence and other war crimes, committed by both sides, have been reported by journalists and human rights groups. It is estimated by the UN that there are around 9000 child soldiers in what is an extremely bloody and violent war. The Sentry reported that around 2.3 million people have been displaced from their homes since war broke out and suggest that the war is about a struggle for power and nothing to do with ethnicity. The excuse of ethnicity is arguably just being used to gather support for either side, but it is working and has split South Sudan causing families and communities to be ripped apart. Their report argues that the war only serves the personal agendas of each man and the groups of elite leaders who profit from the conflict.

An image showing the divides between the two largest tribes in the South Sudan

The former deputy governor of South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, John Ivo Mounto explains the confusion felt by many in the worst affected regions: 

“You don’t understand who is in control. Is it the chief of general staff or President Salva Kiir or Jieng council of elders? It is like the country is being run like individual property, and more especially the way the soldiers have been committing serious atrocities, killing innocent people, raping young ladies and even to an extent of raping lactating mothers, women who have just delivered, which is totally morally wrong and unacceptable in South Sudanese cultures”

This confusion, lack of unity and divisive leadership perpetuates the chaos which is at a tipping point and this is likely to continue until the UN steps in and applies harsher punishments to bring the war to a swift end.