I've been too long gone from the blog world. New love blossomed this Spring and I found myself lost in that wonderfully warm and fuzzy world of fresh beginnings. But the world has continued to spin, people have continued to fight and die, there are new widows and orphans and more pain. There were also small victories happening too. On February 13th, Umar Jaleel, a Sri Lankan peaceworker with Nonviolent Peaceforce was kidnapped by nine armed men from the NP house in Mindanao in the Philippines. He was released by his captors last week, ending the four month ordeal. His freedom was not bought with ransom, but rather with words. You can learn more about Jaleel's release here.
The GLBT world community is gaining recognition of their human rights after many decades of nonviolent struggle. In March, Sweden became the seventh country to recognize same-sex marriages. Although the US is not quite there yet, just this month New Hampshire became the sixth state to recognize same-sex marriage. Ironically, California slid backwards in this effort, but only temporarily.
As we celebrate Jaleel's release, and celebrate the growing recognition of love and relationship in our world, we also watch the unfolding trial of another nonviolent hero, Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi was coming up for release from house arrest, but that possibility is being challenged. An American man violated the terms of her house arrest by swimming to her island home, believing he'd recieved a message from God to protect Suu Kyi. Her generous heart could not force the exhausted man to leave without giving rest and food first. As a result she is facing up to five years in a prison known for torture and harsh conditions. The world is not standing by idly, but letters, phone calls and protests are growing as the junta drags out the proceedings. If love calls you to act on behalf of this great woman visit Amnesty International for ideas. The Buddhist Peace Fellowship is also posting actions as they learn about them.
Here at home things have been grim as I listen to Cheney explain his great fondness of waterboarding. Reviewing the Pew survey on American attitudes toward torture shows that 4 out of 10 Americans believe torture is "often" or "sometimes" justified. If we look at the demographics more closely we find that this number increases to 6 out of 10 for Southern Evangelicals. I find it troubling that these self proclaimed warriors of God entertain the idea that threat power and pain are the best methods for getting answers and control over others. The life of the nonviolent, self-sacraficing Jesus was clearly wasted on them.
Of course when the graphic photos and videos slip out the crap rolls downhill and it's our young girls and boys in uniform that are labeled "bad apples" and are portrayed as going off on their own to torture. Philip Zimbardo, notorious for his controversial Stanford Prison Experiment has much to offer on this topic. I do warn that the images he shows of Abu Ghraib in this TED talk, even edited as they are, are quite graphic. If these images trouble you, can you even begin to imagine the ones that our President has decided to keep from us because they are "too troubling". Zimbardo gives us a way to the future. Instead of teaching our children to go with group think, let's teach them to be heros and nonviolent heros at that.
In closing, we've seen lots of ups and downs in the world of nonviolence over the last three months, but at least we're seeing both. In honor of our hero Aung San Suu Kyi, I will end with quote by her and with the wish that we all have the opportunity to live up to our full potential. "Human beings the world over need freedom and security that they may be able to realize their full potential."