A Justpeace Response to Syria

21 04 2012

Is increasing violence, civil war, and covert support for armed revolution the only options left in Syria? Many analysts respond affirmatively. However, from a justpeace lens I offer the following recommendations for us to consider as key elements toward a transformational political settlement. These can be taken together or separately. They do not represent a full plan, but rather potential key elements to a justpeace plan.

1. To help address the direct violence, send a team of 500-1000 international unarmed peacekeepers. They would be charged primarily with monitoring, documenting, reporting and training local civil society leaders, such as religious leaders, to participate as monitors. They could also provide protective accompaniment to human rights activists and army deserters who agree to put down their weapons. Annan’s present six-point plan includes a form of this element at this time with a lower number of “observers,” although this may soon increase.

2. To help address the mounting distrust and hostility, advocate clearly, strongly and consistently for implementing small-scale restorative justice practices now to attend to key social wounds toward stimulating initial levels of healing and transforming the interactions of hostility. Some of these wounds include distrust, fear, bitterness and vengefulness. Restorative practices could include family conferencing, peacemaking circles in neighborhoods, including relatives of security forces if not members of such forces themselves. There may be local versions of restorative practices that could be highlighted and encouraged. Supporting local civil society members in facilitating these practices would be best. These small-scale efforts today would provide the groundwork for larger-scale efforts later after the acute violence subsides, such as forms of accountability within a national reconciliation conference supported by Noe.

3. Many in the Syrian resistance have been incredibly courageous in risking or giving their lives, and truly creative in their tactics. In a spirit of humble solidarity, this recommendation is offered. Advocate for returning to nonviolent resistance but encourage even more diversification of tactics beyond protests, marches, general strikes, etc. For instance, include more of the recommendations listed in Gene Sharp’s 198 methods such as non-cooperation efforts like slow-downs, boycotting certain goods, short strikes, withdrawal of bank deposits, etc. Through various communication channels, provide materials from Gene Sharp and about Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who was a Muslim leader in nonviolent resistance during the 1900s from what is today the Pakistan/Afghanistan border region.

4. To address the violence, which has entered into the resistance movement, consider Gandhi’s example in India by encouraging a shifting of resistance energy into constructive programs by at least some of the resistors. As Gandhi explained during his time when violence erupted, the “people have awakened to their power, but they have yet to control their desires.” If a transition happens with this influx of violence in the resistance movement, then the ongoing residue of bitterness, resentment, hostility and habits of violence will have seriously damaged their character and chances for a sustainable democracy, as one can see by studies of authoritarian power transitions over the last 35 years, and even the ongoing habits of violence in Libya.

Instead, constructive program entails that the new resistance focus would be social uplift by caring for the marginalized, poor, displaced, and wounded in the community, as well as creating alternative/parallel institutions, such as schools, clinics, media, etc. These institutions could help address the high youth jobless rate in Syria. Caring for the marginalized could include direct service but go further to building closer relationships with the many minority groups that fear al-Assad losing power because he appears to protect them. This would increase the likelihood of al-Assad losing internal support, a key pillar of his power. Further, constructive program would resonate with the strong international consensus at this point for humanitarian aid access, and thus, solidify the collective impact of the international community on al-Assad, which is another key pillar of his power. Constructive program would also work to indirectly and in some cases directly to address the fragmentation of the resistance movement, illustrated in part by the Syrian National Council (primarily outside Syria) and Local Coordination Committees.

I suspect that these practices of constructive program will build a stronger unity for resistance, and thus increase the pressure on al-Assad in a more sustainable and effective way. The people engaged in constructive program will also grow even more in compassion, which will likely defuse the tendency to get caught up in interactions of humiliation (from put downs to killing) that hinders a resistance movement. Overall, constructive program will not simply build a stronger unity for resistance, but also allow space for reflection in all actors, defuse the interactions of hostility, and more likely lead to a transformational, sustainable justpeace.

Eli S. McCarthy
Professor Justice and Peace Studies

(An earlier version of this blog was published Feb. 24, 2012: http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?entry_id=4951)


Conservation efforts on the Galapagos Islands

3 12 2011

-By Lara Markarian, JUPS Fellow

As I began to think about a topic for my JUPS blog post, I realized that most of my options were related to conservation like my last post. The topic of conservation is a near constant here in Ecuador whether you are down at the beach, in the Amazon rainforest, or sitting in a bus in Quito. Ecuadorians are proud of the natural resources and beautiful landscapes in the country, even though one may not know it when walking around Quito because of the great quantity of pollution and car/bus exhaust that permeates the city’s air. Ecuadorian conservation is a bit of a paradox in this sense- while it is one of the most beautiful and bio-diverse places in the world, it is also a poor country with a lack of resources for ‘reducing, reusing, and recycling.’ Besides the addition of hundreds of new recycling bins around the city, the Ecuadorian government has also converted many public lands into ‘national parks’ that has helped these vulnerable areas tremendously. However, even within national parks and reserves, many places are not safe from development and environmental degradation. The Galapagos Islands are particularly at risk and since they are the most famous sites in Ecuador, it is even more important to maintain conservation efforts there. Fortunately, I got to visit these beautiful islands and see some of the conservation work being done first hand.

Before we arrived to the Galapagos Islands during our fall semester break, we were aware that we would be hearing a lot about the conservation efforts on the islands (especially about the constant fighting between fishermen and the conservationists). As many people had told me that Ecuador had been considering shutting the islands to tourists because of the negative effect that tourists have on the islands, I was also worried that tourists would be treated poorly on the islands. This is understandable because some tourists do not know much about national park conservation and visit the Galapagos for ‘vacation’ purposes, picking up shells and rocks to take home to their kids and leaving trash on trails and in the water. Like we predicted, we did receive a lecture about the conservation efforts of the park within an hour of arriving, but our tour guide also added an interesting point that I think is important to share. He told us, “The Galapagos will disappear without tourists- you are exactly what the islands need to continue to prosper. This is not only because you being here gives us revenue to continue conserving the endemic species and natural beauty of the islands, but also because your interest and your desire to learn about these magical islands is what keeps the conservation efforts going. If the world did not care about the Galapagos, the Ecuadorian government wouldn’t either.” I think he’s right and I hope that, in the coming years, many more visitors will be able to see the islands exactly how I saw them less than a month ago. With this welcome message from our tour guide, the groups of students from USFQ started on a week of activities that I will never forget.

Just to sum up some of the incredible activities I did throughout the week as we travelled from Isla San Cristobal to Isla Santa Cruz: I snorkeled alongside sting rays, sea turtles, fish, and sharks, I hiked through an active volcano zone, I played with (without touching of course!) a baby sea lion in the water, I walked through hundreds of marine iguanas, I saw Lonely George at the Charles Darwin Research Station, and I climbed into a real giant turtle shell! I took pictures with an underwater camera, so if any of them turn out well I will be sure to post them when I get the pictures developed. Here are some pictures from on land:



How might we respond to the “Occupy Together” movement?

2 12 2011

By Eli S. McCarthy, Professor of Justice and Peace Studies

Drawing on Georgetown’s Jesuit tradition and on Catholic Social Teaching, I’d like to reflect on “Occupy Together” from a Catholic perspective. As Jesus offered his life challenging the unjust systems of his day–religious, economic, political, etc., how might we reflect on the Occupy Together Movement today? Is there any consistency with it and the Gospels and Catholic Social Teaching (CST)? On the one hand, the general practice of challenging unjust systems is certainly consistent with Jesus’ work and CST. To the extent the movement lights up the human dignity of people who are being ignored, taken advantage of, unnecessarily laid off, etc., then it is also consistent. To the extent it lifts up the poor and the unjust distribution of basic goods including wages, then it is also consistent. To the extent it calls businesses and government to put people before profits, and the common good before narrow interests, it is also consistent. In general, civil disobedience to unjust laws/systems is also consistent. On the other hand, what about the motto “we are the 99%,” which some use in the movement? It attempts to illuminate a deeper common ground to bring disparate folks together, even though 99% of the country doesn’t appear to support Occupy at this point. Yet, to the extent it could function to demonize the 1% then it fails to uphold the dignity of all people. Does it demonize or simply light up the injustice of particular actions by the 1%? This is a good question which will need tested by talking to people in the movement. Recently, in a Just Faith educational program held at Holy Trinity Parish on the topic of nonviolent peacemaking, we learned about Barbara Deming’s “two-hands” approach used during the women’s rights movement. One hand faces out and signifies a “stop” sign to the unjust practices, while the other hand lays open to recognizing the human dignity of all people, even the perceived “enemy,” and welcoming them into friendship.  

Reflection: How is your imagination and heart stirring in regards to the Occupy Together Movement?


Oil in the Amazon

26 10 2011

-By Lara Markarian, JUPS Fellow

The first time I heard about the extraction of petroleum and natural gases from beneath the Amazon rainforest region was in my Introduction to Justice and Peace course last semester.Representatives from Oxfam America who had been lobbying on the hill earlier in the day for petroleum extraction reform in Peru joined our classroom and gave a presentation about Oxfam’s work in South America. I had recently learned that I would be studying abroad in Ecuador during the fall, so I was extremely interested in learning about one of the many political problems this region was facing. The Oxfam representatives informed us about the unfortunate situation facingthe indigenous communities that had lived in the Peruvian rainforest for hundreds of years;big multinational oil companies that wanted their share of the resources beneath the land were stripping the indigenous communities of their land. I learned soon after arriving in Ecuador that many of the Ecuadorian indigenous communities have been dealing with similar issues for the last few decades.

The majority of the Ecuadorian economy is based on natural resource extraction ranging from oil and natural gas to mining and lumber. In 2010, crude and refined petroleum products accounted for 56% of total export earnings for the country. Thus, it is easy to see why rain forest and indigenous community conservation questions are quickly pushed to the side when the struggling government is making a substantial amount of its capital from petroleum extraction.President Rafael Correa has tried to face some of these environmental problems, for example,by asking the international community to help alleviate the economic pressure of keeping the oil in the ground by paying 350 million dollars a year for ten years to help the country with the economic burden. However, no agreements have been made and the Ecuadorian Amazon is in danger of further exploitation because the country is in dire need of economic resources.

This conflict of interest became crystal clear to me a few weekends ago when I journeyed with other international students to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, an Amazon research and conservation station run jointly by the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) and BostonUniversity. During our orientation for the Amazon trip, the program director gave us a lot of information on the Yasuni National Park (located across the Tiputini River from the station) and the Huaoroni indigenous groups who have long inhabited this incredibly biodiverse land. Wealso learned that while private organizations such as USFQ have been doing their absolute bestto try to conserve this land, oil companies have been able to penetrate. In 2004, the Ecuadorian government granted the Brazilian national oil company Petrobras permission to construct a new road called the “Maxus Road” into an undisturbed part of the park to facilitate oil extraction.Similarly, there is an ongoing legal battle between Ecuador and Chevron/Texaco about the illegal dumping practices of the company from 1964-1990 that left much of the rainforest contaminated.On the journey to the station, we were able to directly observe big oil processing plants on the side of the river and were even forbidden from taking pictures when we entered a petroleumcompany checkpoint as part of the 8-hour journey into the rainforest. After spending a weekendin the beautiful Amazon looking at monkeys, insects, and birds, I have a renewed appreciation for the conservation efforts of organizations such as Oxfam and the Tiputini Biodiversity Station,and I hope that the global community will be able to recognize the value of these lands as more than just oil fields before it is too late.

The Problem with Peace–and Why the World Needs Little Friends

25 10 2011

-by Mary Liepold, LFFP volunteer

Peace isn’t just for Christmas carols anymore. The peace sign is the height of fashion; if it’s not on your t-shirt, it’s probably on your book bag or your bandana. And our cherished democracy has been waging two pointless, obscenely expensive wars for the past 10 years. We live on a hungry planet where war eats first.

Seems like everyone loves the idea of peace, but hardly anyone knows what it means. Thank God there’s Little Friends for Peace!

For 30 years, most of them here in the nation’s capitol, MJ and Jerry Park have been living out Gandhi’s instructions for how to reach peace: Begin with the children. They operate Peace Camps, Peace Clubs, and a Peace Room at Perry School on Capitol Hill, where kids and volunteers of all ages learn how to make it real. They also conduct workshops, playshops, and friendly trainings of many shapes and sizes for parents, teachers, coaches, and communityleaders who work with kids. One of their signature innovations is the Peace Train, a string of cardboard boxes that kids have fun decorating and then driving, while they learn life-long lessons in solving problems before they turn into fights. Over the years the Parks have earned numerous awards, including selection by Pax Christi USA as Peacemakers of the Year in 2009.

You may be wondering: Sounds great, but how do they make it pay? LFFP is strictly not for profit–or to use the newer term, social profit. MJ and Jerry raised six great kids while devoting almost all their time to peace education, and most years they don’t even make it into a taxable income bracket. But kids who go through the clubs and camps grow into volunteers. One of the Park’s sons is their volunteer director of development. And the peace, energy, and sheer joy the founders radiate draws other volunteers to come and help.

Students from the Georgetown College of Medicine come to the Peace Room one day a week to spread the inner peace that comes from good health and nutrition. Asianna Joyce, a George Washington University student who worked with the Parks last year, says,

“Each time I am in the Peace Room, I feel high spirited. I receive a good word, some guidance, and feel light hearted for a long time afterwards. To have an organization that is a safe haven for everyone who is part of it is a beautiful thing.”

The LFFP theme for this fall season is Practicing Peace in Everyday Life. If you’d like to put peace into your life, as a volunteer, a donor, or a student of peace, go to www.lffp.org, or contact mjpeace@gmail.com. Get on the Peace Train!


Note: LFFP and the Peace Train are going international. Watch this space for a story by volunteer Cindy Shuck about the August Peace Camp in San Salvador, El Salvador.



27 09 2011

Welcome to the Georgetown University Program on Justice and Peace blog! The Program on Justice and Peace (PJP) is a transdisciplinary, cross-cultural community of students, faculty, staff, and community partners who share a commitment to the academic study and lived pursuits of peace and social justice. The Program fosters creative and collaborative envisioning to explore complex questions of practical morality and domestic and global politics. This blog contains information about upcoming events around campus and DC, opportunities to get involved, and posts from students, faculty, alumni, and community partners! If you would like to publish on this blog, please send an email to Fatima Taskomur at fht3@georgetown.edu

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