Bassa Jang! Enough War! This was one of the clear messages delegates at a conference on Women & Peacemaking heard in London on Saturday 26 September. It came from children in Kabul who are involved in a peace education programme at the Borderfree Centre for Nonviolence in Kabul.
Mary Dobbing, one of the speakers at the conference, has made two solidarity visits to Kabul to visit the Afghan Peace Volunteers. She recounted that on one visit they set up a SKYPE link with groups in the UK working on drone warfare to enable the young people in Kabul to be involved in a question and answer session.
#Enough! Was set up as part of a global day of listening, which takes place on 21 of each month, linking schools and universities around the world with the young people in Kabul.
Marie Lyse Numuhoza shared her personal story as a refugee from Rwanda. Like thousands of others, her family was torn apart by the war in early 1990s and fled the country, spending years in refugee camps. Searching for answers Marie-Lyse began to ask questions: Why did the war happen? Whose interests were being met by the war? For her the answer was that the original conflict between Rwanda and DRC was fuelled by a desire to control natural resources. This, she explained manufactured divisions between Hutu's and Tutsi's. Today Marie Lyse is an active member of the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom UK and among other things works to promote UN Resolution 1325 which reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations and peace-building.
Virginia Moffatt is a writer, runner, CEO of Ekklesia and a mother and wife. Virginia's presentation helped participants to better understand some of the tensions in peacemaking and family life. How does one create security for one's own children while challenging wars that destroy the lives of other children? How does one balance the need to be at home and sometimes work away or be imprisoned. Virginia and her husband Chris Cole have also had to negotiate the implications of taking part in nonviolent direct actions that lead to imprisonment or bailiffs turning up on the doorstep. Virginia has used her running to help support the project "Circuses to Palestine" and writes a Diary column in Peace News.
Mia Tamarin became involved in peace activist at 14, as a curious teenager. Living in Tel Aviv, Israel she became aware of the injustice of the occupation of after a visit to the West Bank and meeting Palestinians. With other high school students she decided that she would resist military conscription (which is compulsory in Israel). Applications for CO status were rejected and Mia served four short terms in military detention. Mia admits that being a CO in Israel is
easier than in many other countries. However, militarism is such a key feature of Israeli society that non-cooperation can have consequences for a whole family and Mia's own family moved to the UK.
The presentations of these women helped to flesh out the aim of the conference, to explore the personal and political in peacemaking and to be energised to continue the task today. The day opened with the film "These Dangerous Women" produced by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom about the women who tried to stop the First World War and who took part in the international peace conference in The Hague in 1915. Participants were asked to complete the sentence: To make peace we need to... here are some of the responses: "Raise our voices", "Be educated about the horrors of war", "Prioritise people over profit", "Stop talking sentimentally about peace & human rights while selling weapons".
The Conference, which attracted 45 participants, was organised by Pax Christi and WILPF and supported by Ekklesia and the FWW Peace Forum.
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