Op-Ed: Seeking Peace Needs an Enterprising Foreign Policy
by H.E. Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairsof the Republic of Turkey
This week Istanbul will host two separate but related international conferences on mediation. One will be devoted to the state of play in the conflict map and capacity for mediation within the membership of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The second one will adopt a broad scope and discuss the connections between sustainable development, peace and mediation; the ways to increase gender and youth inclusion in mediation processes; and a thought provoking session on the role of big data and artificial intelligence in conflict and mediation analysis. It may be thought that conferences are conferences but the Istanbul Mediation Conferences have proven rather influential in cultivating a shared understanding of issues and an agenda for action in the field of mediation and peaceful conflict resolution. As the host of these conferences and the only country that co-chairs the Friends of Mediation Groups in three distinct important international organizations, namely the United Nations, the OIC and the OSCE, Turkey has the ability to share the findings of these conferences in these international organizations.
The fact of the matter is that humanity is facing a distinct challenge in the 21st century. Just when many people thought that the glass is half full in terms of the achievements in international law, institutions, democracy and the rule of law, accountability, free trade, gender equality and others, the empty half of the glass has begun to reassert itself. The symptoms are known to all of us and need no reminding. Trade wars, new forms of international exploitation, geopolitical competitions, great power proxy wars, disintegrating nation states, terrorism, xenophobia, animosity against Islam, raging inequalities and injustice count among the contemporary trends that make up the glass half empty. The challenges of humanity are eating away the achievements and opportunities of humanity. Which side will prevail? The answer depends on how we respond to challenges, including on how much we humans can work together towards positive outcomes. One point is clear: unless we take initiative and be enterprising and humanitarian, the bad will prevail. Wait-and-see attitude is no longer tenable. Policy options differ from mediation to actual use of force against terrorists.
Take the situation in Syria. Turkey’s enterprising and humanitarian approach cleared a total of 4000 square kilometers from two terrorist organizations, DEASH and PKK/PYD/YPG. Had we not intervened, our people would have been under continued assault from these terrorists and a political solution to the Syrian tragedy would have been unreachable. Turkey is doing utmost to relieve humanitarian suffering, hosting the greatest number of refugees worldwide, spending more than the biggest economy in the world as the world’s top humanitarian spender. Turkey is also brokering agreements that save tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives and promoting a political solution based on the territorial integrity of the neighboring Syria.
I gave the example of Syria for a reason. Syria demonstrates to us once again that prevention is important because once the fire of conflict engulfs a nation, then the only thing that remains predictable is that there will be unpredictable consequences on that state. One generation of citizens will be wasted in one way or the other; the future will also be bleak. Everyone, including those who are thousands of kilometers away will come to suffer, either in the form of terrorist threat, economic shock, irregular migration, or wounded human conscience.
If prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts are of paramount importance, then we must take it seriously. This appreciation is driving Turkey’s efforts in the field of mediation as the co-chair of the UN, OSCE and OIC friends of mediation groups and the host to a capacity building mediation training program and the two mediation conferences that we will organize in Istanbul this week.
Meiliana, a Chinese-Indonesian woman of the Buddhist faith, who has been sentenced to 18 months in jail for complaining about the volume of the adzan (Islamic call to prayer) from a speaker at a mosque near her house in Tanjungbalai, North Sumatra. Image: Jakarta Post
By Christie Stefanie in Jakarta
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo says he respects the verdict handed down by an Indonesian local court against an ethnic Chinese woman, Meiliana, who was sentenced to 18 months in jail after being found guilty of blasphemy.
According to Widodo, if there are those who disagree with the verdict then Meiliana can lodge an appeal against the ruling by the Medan District Court
“Yes, an appeal process is available,” Widodo said after meeting with the Bishops Council of Indonesia (KWI) in Jakarta on Friday.
“I am unable to intervene in legal affairs that are related to the authority of the courts. I myself have only just been found guilty by a court in Palangkaraya over a [forest] fire,” said Widodo laughing.
President Widodo … found guilty by a court in Palangkaraya over a Kalimantan forest fire. Image: Jakarta Post
The other defendants in the case included Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, Agricultural Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman, Agriculture and Land Spatial Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil, Health Minister Nila F. Moeloek, Central Kalimantan Governor Sugianto Sabran and the Central Kalimantan Regional House of Representatives (DPRD).
The defendants are currently preparing to submit an appeal with the Supreme Court.
The Pacific Media Centre reports that the last few days have seen a massive outpouring of support for Meiliana, a Chinese-Indonesian woman of the Buddhist faith who was sentenced to 18 months for complaining about the volume of the adzan (Islamic call to prayer) from a speaker at a mosque near her house in Tanjungbalai, North Sumatra.
An online petition addressed to Widodo, which was launched on August 22 calling for Meiliana to be freed, has already been signed by more than 100,000 people.
The petition also requests that the panel of judges that sentenced Meiliana be reviewed and that the Ministry of Religious Affairs issue a regulation on the use of loudspeakers by mosques, which it has since done.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo gestures during an interview at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia. Image: Human Rights Watch/R file
By Phelim Kine
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo did something extraordinary in his annual State of the Nation address this week – he issued a plea for tolerance.
“I am sure if the Indonesian people want to remain united, tolerant, and care for their fellow children of the nation, then Indonesia is no longer just a name or picture of a chain of islands on a world map, but rather a force respected by other nations in the world,” Jokowi said.
However, he did not provide any details or timetable for their resolution.
Jokowi’s first-time reference to tolerance in his annual national address might indicate some recognition that he has failed to translate his rhetorical support for human rights into meaningful policy initiatives.
He could also be responding to criticism from domestic human rights activists of his recent choice for his vice presidential running mate, Ma’ruf Amin, a conservative cleric who has played a major role in fueling discrimination against religious and gender minorities.
Jokowi’s challenge now is to back his rhetoric of toleration with substantive policies that will protect vulnerable populations and bring rights abusers to justice.
Phelim Kine is deputy director, Asia Division, of Human Rights Watch.
A pair of Indonesian Islamic universities are pushing female students to ditch niqab face veils – with one threatening expulsion for non-compliance – as concerns grow over rising fundamentalism in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, reports Rappler Indonesia.
Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University said it had issued the edict this week to more than three dozen niqab-wearing students, who will be expelled from school if they refuse.
Although niqabs are common in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states, they are rare in secular Indonesia, where around 90 percent of its 260 million people have traditionally followed a moderate form of Islam.
For many Indonesians, the niqab – a full veil with a small slit for the eyes – is an unwelcome Arab export and some associate it with radical Islam, which the country has wrestled with for years, reported Rappler.
“We are a state university… we’ve been told to spread moderate Islam,” the school’s chancellor Yudian Wahyudi told a press briefing this week.
The school, based in Indonesia’s cultural capital Yogyakarta, has some 10,000 students.
Another Yogyakarta-based institution, Ahmad Dahlan University, has also introduced a new prohibition on the niqab out of fears it might stir up religious radicalism, which has seen a resurgence on many of the nation’s university campuses.
No penalty There would be no penalty for those who refused, it added.
“But during exams, they cannot wear it because officials have to match the photos on their exam ID with them, which is hard if one is wearing the niqab,” said university chancellor Kasiyarno, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
Indonesia’s reputation as a bastion of progressiveness and religious tolerance has recently been tested by a government push to outlaw gay and pre-marital sex, Rappler reported.
The conservative lurch comes as once-fringe Islamic political parties move into the mainstream.
The niqab has been at the centre of a heated global debate over religious freedom and women’s rights, with France the first European country to ban it in public spaces.
Backers of the schools’ new rules said wearing a niqab is not a religious obligation.
“Education should be about dialogue – open and progressive – and if you wear a niqab it interferes in that dialogue and the teaching-learning process,” said Zuhairi Misrawi, head of the Jakarta-based Muslim Moderate Society.
But others saw the anti-niqab appeal as trampling on individual rights.
It’s “a matter of personal preference and the university has to respect that”, said Fadlun Amin, a spokesman for the local chapter of the Forum Ukhuwah Islamiyah, part of top clerical body the Indonesian Ulema Council.
Several Indonesian universities have issued niqab bans in the past.
Last year, a private Islamic high school in Java was reprimanded by local officials after images went viral online that showed a classroom of sitting female students wearing niqab, violating a national regulation on acceptable school uniforms.
“One of the gifts that we have received as a nation is freedom and democracy. And we tend to take that for granted,” Bishop David said in an interview after the Walk for Life staged by Catholics a day earlier on Saturday.
Asked if he agrees there is a “creeping dictatorship” in the Philippines, Bishop David said: “It will creep on if we are not vigilant.”
He added: “We must guard our democracy. We must guard our freedom as a people, our civil liberties. We must not take that for granted.”
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, former president of the CBCP, challenged Filipinos to “regain” the mission of the EDSA People Power Revolution.
Story about people “The EDSA story is about people, not personalities. It is about nationalism, not personal gain. It is about the power of prayer, not about strategies and plots. It is God guiding his people,” Villegas explained.
“It is glorious but it entrusted us with a mission. Unfortunately we basked in the glory too long. The mission was laid aside. We can still regain it if we want,” the former CBCP president said.
In a separate interview with reporters on Saturday, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo also called for vigilance among Filipinos.
Pabillo earlier said the Walk for Life, an event to oppose drug war killings, the death penalty, and other anti-life measures, can be linked to the 32nd anniversary of the People Power Revolution.
“Alam naman natin ano ang resulta ng dictatorship – pag-aabuso ng human rights, pag-aabuso ng buhay. Kaya nga ayaw din natin na maulit uli ‘yung dictatorship. Kaya dapat panindigan natin at maging vigilant tayo sa mga nangyayari ngayon,” Pabillo said.
(We know the results of dictatorship – abuses of human rights, abuses of life. That’s why we don’t want dictatorship to happen again. That’s why we need to stand up and remain vigilant about the things happening today.)
About 2000 Catholics attended the Walk for Life on Saturday, according to the Philippine National Police.
Tagle stresses ‘active non-violence’ In that event, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle presided over a mass and delivered a homily on treating people as gifts, not commodities.
Hours later, Tagle presided over another Mass at EDSA Shrine, this time to mark the feast of Our Lady of EDSA, or Mary, Queen of Peace.
“Peace is not only the absence of violence,” Tagle said in his mass at EDSA Shrine.
Citing Pope Saint John XXIII, Tagle said peace could only come from justice, truth, love, and respect. “Kapag ‘yan ay itinanim at lumago, ang aanihin natin, kapayapaan,” he said. (If that is planted and then it grows, we will sow peace.)
The cardinal also emphasised the need for “active non-violence,” a message he also made during the first Walk for Life held at Quirino Grandstand in February 2017.
“Kapag napoot ka, nainis ka, sa napopoot sa iyo, lumilinaw sa kanya, ‘Talagang kaaway ako. Pinatunayan niya na kami’y magkaaway.’ Eh ‘di tuloy ang away,” Tagle said.
(If you bear a grudge, if you get angry, at the person who bears a grudge against you, it becomes clear to him, “I am really an enemy. He proved that we are really enemies.” Then you will continue fighting.)
“Pero kapag siya, galit na galit sa iyo, poot na poot sa iyo, tapos pinakita mo, kaya mong mahalin, at pinagdarasal mo pa siya, nalilito na siya: ‘Ano ba ako? Kaaway ba ako o kaibigan?’ Sa kalituhan niya, hindi niya na alam kung lalaban siya o hindi.”
(But if he is really angry at you, really furious at you, then you show that you can love him, and you’re even praying for him, he becomes confused: “What am I? Am I an enemy or a friend?” In his confusion, he no longer knows if he will fight or not.)
“Unti-unti, siya ay nababago,” Tagle said. “Kasi paano siya lalaban, wala na siyang kaaway? Nabago siya ng pagmamahal.” (Slowly he is being changed. Because how will he fight when he no longer has an enemy? He is changed by love.)
Paterno Esmaquel II is a journalist with the independent website Rappler.
Headline: Tongan churches failing to provide climate leadership, says researcher
By Philip Cass of Kaniva News
Tonga’s churches are failing to provide leadership over climate change and it is up to young people to join with church goers to take action, according to research by an Anglican priest.
Speaking at last week’s Pacific Ocean Climate Change conference in Wellington, Fr Laiseni Fanon Charisma Liava‘a said that while the Tongan government was desperately lobbying developed countries about Tonga being on the frontline of climate change, the issue was not a priority for the kingdom’s churches.
The former Tongan Navy officer said his research, conducted in Tonga in June last year, showed that climate change was still a relatively new issue at the local church level.
It was still much managed and communicated as an elite level issue while the majority of the people at the community and grassroots level were left uninformed.
He said the churches displayed a lack of care and collective responsibility about the seriousness of the issue and its threat to people’s lives.
The churches failed to understand the significance of climate change and did not communicate its importance, especially to young people.
“The majority of church leaders still do not fully believe climate change is a serious issue and that it is not the responsibility of the church to combat its impact,” Fr Liava’a said.
Perpetuated behaviour Churches continued to perpetuate behaviour and practices that did not help mitigate its effects.
He said because some church leaders were employed in public and private sector boards or foreign funded projects on climate change, people thought they only pushed a climate change agenda because they were paid to do so.
Fr Liava’a worked for the Pacific Community-Focused Disaster Risk Reduction Tonga Project in 2009 and as the National Climate Change Coordinator of Tonga’s Third National Communication Project from 2013 to 2014.
He said the main factors holding the churches back were lack of informed understanding, lack of moral leadership and deficiencies in Biblical and theological comprehension of climate change issues.
Fr Liava’a said people he spoke with said the churches were selective when it comes political and public issues.
“The urgency of the need for response and combat climate change demands young people and churchgoers to take action, together,” Fr Liava’a said.
“It has to start with education.”
Strong leadership needed He said Tonga needed strong leaders to take action on climate change.
“Leaders need to step up and set examples. People can follow.”
The exclusion of spiritual/Christian principles and values from the climate change message was also a problem.
“The people in Tonga cannot be separated from God because that is what they believe,” he said.
“My research findings showed that one of the reasons why churches do not always support the government is because the government does not build on Christian principles to the climate change work.”
Rev’d Liava’a said that when serving as an officer in the Tongan Navy from 1999-2002 he had seen a number of areas where people had now retreated from the sea because of climate change.
These included Makaunga to Navutoka on the eastern side, Kanokupolu and south of Ha’atafu on the western side of Tongatapu and Lifuka in the Ha’apai group.
Dr Philip Cass is a media academic and an adviser to Kaniva News. He is also a research associate of the Pacific Media Centre.
Headline: More frontline research ‘by Pacific for Pacific’ plea at climate summit
Trailer for the controversial climate change documentary Anote’s Ark – former Kiribati President Anote Tong opened the first Pacific Climate Change Conference in Wellington in 2016.
By David Robie at Te Papa
A recent Andy Marlette cartoon published by the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon, depicted a bathtub-looking Noah’s Ark with a couple of stony-faced elephants on board with a sodden sign declaring “Climate change is a hoax”.
The other animals on board floating to safety were muttering among themselves: “The elephants won’t admit that these 100-year events are happening once a month …”
At the other end of the globe in Wellington this week for the second Pacific Ocean Climate Conference at Te Papa Museum, I encountered a fatalistic message from a Tongan taxi driver counting down the hours before the tail-end of Tropical Cyclone Gita struck the New Zealand capital after wreaking a trail of devastation in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.
He had it all worked out: “We don’t need climate conferences,” he said. “Just trust in God and we’ll survive.”
However, a key takeaway message from the three-day conference was just how urgent action is needed by global policymakers, especially for the frontline states in the Pacific – Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, where none of the sprawling atolls that make up those countries are higher than 2m above sea level.
Many of the predictions in assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are being revised as being too cautious or are already exceeded.
Bleak news for the Pacific at least. Glaciologist Dr Naish is working on a project to improve estimates of sea level rise in New Zealand and the Pacific.
More Pacific research needed Another critical takeaway message was the vital need for “more Pacific research, by the Pacific and for the Pacific”, as expressed by 2007 Nobel Peace Prize co-recipient Professor Elizabeth Holland, director of the University of the South Pacific’s Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD).
Many of the global models drawn from average statistics are not too helpful for the specifics in the Pacific where climate change is already a daily reality.
Dr Holland was a keynote speaker on the final day. Describing herself as a “climate accountant” making sense of the critical numbers and statistics, she said it was vital that indigenous Pacific knowledge was being partnered with the scientists to develop strategies especially tailored for the “frontline region”.
“Local research in the region is of utmost importance, leading to informed development choices and is the best way forward as it creates a direct connection between the research and the communities once it is implemented” she says.
“Our Big Ocean States are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and remote research does not suffice, calling for the creation of leaders and experts locally through joint Pacific-led research.”
Scientists, researchers and postgraduate students were at Te Papa in force among the 240 delegates or so at the conference.
Deputy director Dr Morgan Wairiu was among them, speaking on “Engaging Pacific Islands on SRM Geoengineering Research”.
USP is one of only two regional universities in the world – the other is in the Caribbean. Its PaCE-SD is a centre for excellence in environmental education and engagement, and a global climate change research leader, especially with its focus on the Pacific region and island countries.
The university has 12 member countries with campuses or centres in each.
Local researchers are highly motivated and passionate about studies dealing with the effects of the changes occurring in their environment first hand.
The conference speakers included some the leading and innovative global climate science thinkers and advocates, such as Dr Michael E. Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University.
“There are droughts, wildfires and floods that are occurring now that are without any precedent in the historical record and where we can now use modelling simulations, climate models,” he says.
“You can run two parallel simulations. You can run a simulation where the carbon dioxide levels are left at pre-industrial levels, and a parallel simulation where you increase those levels in response to the burning of fossil fuels. And you can look at how often a particular event happened.”
He developed the artificial leaf from this theory, a project named by Time magazine as Innovation of the Year for 2011. Since then he has elaborated this invention with a partner in India to develop a production pilot deploying a complete artificial photosynthetic cycle.
He argues that it is developing countries that may play a more crucial role in harnessing renewable energy discoveries because the massive vested interest infrastuctures built around fossil fuels in Western countries hamper rapid progress.
Many speakers gave an indigenous perspective on climate change, arguing that a holistic approach was needed, not just focusing on the science and political solutions.
Independent researcher Aroha Te Pareake Mead gave an inspiring message about “Indigenous peoples and our knowledge – we’re a total package” and the Mataatua Declaration on the Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples 1993 and what has been achieved since.
The Mana Wahine panel – Associate professor Leonie Pihama, Dr Naomi Simmonds and Assistant Professor Huhana Smith – gave an inspirational sharing on “transforming lives through research”.
Law graduate Sarah Thompson spoke about her legal challenge last year to the previous National-led New Zealand government over the emissions target, and although she eventually lost the High Court case for a judicial review, she opened the door to future climate change lawsuits that may prove more successful.
However, former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Victoria University’s Law Faculty distinguished fellow, was far more cautious, saying that there was better chance of persuading politicians and trying to develop climate change policy through the courts.
Dr D. Kapua Sproat, acting director of Ka Huli Ao Centre for Excellence in Native Hawai’ian Law and director of the Environmental Law clinic at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, said Native Hawai’ians could invoke indigenous rights to environmental self-determination.
Julian Aguon of Guam, founder of boutique Blue Ocean Law, said it was a challenge to confront deep-sea mining negotiators and corporate lawyers in “wild west” style cases in the Pacific.
But he also pointed out that more media, climate change frontline activists such as the Climate Warriors, and West Papuan advocates – “where horrendous climate and cultural abuses are happening” – needed to be included in such a conference.
In the concluding panel, the joint Victoria University and SPREP organisers, led by Professor James Renwick and “spiritual leader” Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pacific) Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, pulled together these core themes for going forward for the next conference in two years “somewhere in the Pacific”:
• Urgency of action • Pacific on the frontline of climate change • Multiple voices, and legitimacy of Pacific voices • New, more and better capacity-building in the Pacific • Action on all fronts – top down and bottom up • Need more effective laws • Transformative change is needed
Headline: King’s second son’s noble rights announced in Tonga Gazette
Prince Ata … Mormon prince has entitlements gazetted in Tonga. Image: Kaniva News
By Kalino Latu in Auckland
King Tupou VI’s second son is the lawful successor to the hereditary noble title and estate of Ata, it has been announced in the kingdom of Tonga Gazette.
It said Viliami ‘Unuaki-‘o-Tonga Mumui Lalaka-mo e-‘Eiki Tuku’aho was entitled to the hereditary estate belonging “to the title to which he has succeeded together with the rents and profits thereof and all other rights and privileges attached to the title as from 25 September 2006”.
The King’s order comes after he sent former Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakanō and some royal guards to intervene in a baptism ceremony that would have made Prince Ata a Mormon three years ago.
The prince drew back, but a year later he was baptised as a Mormon in Hawai‘i.
As Kaniva News reported at the time, an unconfirmed report said the King later warned Prince Ata he could have some of his princely privileges revoked if he was baptised into the Mormon church.
It is believed he was the first prince of Tonga to become a Mormon after his aunt, the late Princess ‘Elisiva Fusipala Vaha’i, became the first member of the royal family to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1980s.
The Tongan constitution does not say that successors’ rights to the throne will be affected by their religious beliefs.
The royal family are members of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga.
It was unclear why the announcement was published on November 23, 2017 more than 11 years after the 29-year-old prince was appointed in 2006.
Prince Ata’s estates Prince Ata is fourth in line to the throne. The noble title was previously held by his father.
In 2006, the palace office announced the late King George V had appointed him to the noble title Ata.
It said the appointment was to be effective from September 25, 2006.
Ata’s hereditary estates are Kolovai in Tongatapu and the island of ‘Atatā, 10 kilometres North-West of Nuku‘alofa.
As Kaniva News reported last year, Prince Ata had joined Mormon church leaders who held the first Sunday prayer service for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the island of ‘Atatā.
The service marked a milestone in the history of the Mormon church on the island.
In the past they have had to make a 30 minute crossing to Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga, to attend Sunday services and church meetings there.
The Gazette The announcement by His Majesty’s Lord Privy Seal Tēvita Malolo is published verbatim below.
“In Exercise of the powers conferred by Section 38 of the Land Act, His Majesty King Tupou VI hereby Orders to be published in the Gazette that:
Viliami ‘Unuaki-‘o-Tonga Mumui Lalaka-mo e-‘Eiki Tuku’aho is the lawful successor to the hereditary noble title and estate of: ATA and shall possess and enjoy the hereditary estate appurtenant to the title to which he has succeeded together with the rents and profits thereof and all other rights and privileges attached to the title as from 25 September 2006.”
The Land Act The relevant provision of the Land Act says:
“King to publish name of lawful successor (1) Upon the death of a holder of an hereditary estate or upon being convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment for more than two years or upon his being certified as insane or imbecile by a medical officer,
His Land Act CAP. 46.02 Section 39 to 2016 Revised Edition Page 25 Majesty shall cause the name of the lawful successor to the title of such holder to be published in the Gazette together with the date of his succession thereto which shall be the day following that on which the death of the holder took place or on which the holder was convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment for more than two years or was certified by a medical officer as insane or imbecile.
25 (2) On a convenient day not more than 6 months after the date of such publication, or, where the lawful successor is on such date a minor, 6 months after the day he attains the age of 21 years, His Majesty shall summon the person so named to appear before him in the Privy Council and there to take the oath of allegiance set out in Schedule VII. (3) The clerk of the Privy Council shall keep a roll of all persons holding hereditary estates.”
Headline: One Palestinian family’s devastating story of Israeli military cruelty
OPINION:By Sister Barbara Cameron
When I read last week of the detention of a young Palestinian teenage girl, 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, dragged from her bed in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers, for me it wasn’t just another Palestinian teenage protester.
I was devastated. This is the beautiful young woman I’d met as a happy, innocent 10-year-old, in whose house I’d slept, with whose family I’d sat at table, to whose grandmother I had listened as she shared the pain of the terrible things her own children had suffered at the hands of the Israeli military, her daughter shot in a military court room, her son detained innumerable times.
I was gutted thinking of this family having to deal with yet another trauma, fearing what might happen to their 16-year-old daughter in military detention.
Ahed with her mother Nariman … a family suffering again from the cruelty and injustice of the Israeli occupation. Image: Al Jazeera
Not only that but her 15-year-old brother, Mohammed, is now lying in an induced coma as the result of the injury caused by being shot in the face by a rubber bullet. For me it was heartbreaking news.
In 2011, as a NZ Catholic nun, a Mission Sister, I had volunteered with the International Women’s Peace Service group in Palestine on the West Bank, a group that supports the Palestinians in any nonviolent resistance to the occupation of their land by Israel, and reports on human rights abuses.
It was at that time I had the privilege of meeting Ahed’s father, Basem Tamimi, a charismatic village leader (in my book, another Gandhi or Mandela), whose gentleness and commitment to nonviolent, peaceful protest against the Israeli occupation of their land was in stark contrast with the picture of protesters I’d formed, from the media, of Palestinian resistance to occupation.
In that man’s home, with that little girl and their family, we enjoyed the warm, generous hospitality, typical of Palestine.
Accused by military police Within days of that experience Basem was picked up by the Israeli military police accused of inciting protesters to throw stones at the soldiers.
What follows are excerpts from the speech Basem gave in the military court in June 2011.
“In my lifetime I have been nine times imprisoned for an overall of almost three years, though I was never charged or convicted. During my imprisonment, I was paralysed as a result of torture by your investigators…
“International law guarantees the right of the occupied people to resist occupation. In practising my right I have called for and organised peaceful, popular demonstrations against the occupation, settler attacks and the theft of more than half the land of my village…
“Our demonstrations are in protest of injustice. We work hand in hand with Israeli and international activists who believe like us that had it not been for the occupation, we could all live in peace on this land…
“I did not incite anyone to throw stones, but I am not responsible for the security of your soldiers who invade my village and attack my people with all the weapons of death and the equipment of terror…
“Despite all your racist and inhumane practices and Occupation we will continue to believe in peace, justice and human values. We will still raise our children to love; love the land and the people without discrimination of race, religion, or ethnicity, embodying thus the message of the messenger of peace, Jesus Christ, who urged us to “love our enemy”.
“With love and justice we make peace and build the future.”
Again suffering cruelty Now, six years later in the wake of the demonstrations on the West Bank following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, this family is again suffering from the cruelty and injustice of the occupation.
Ahed Tamimi, who was arrested by the Israeli army on December 20 is now scheduled for trial. This is the second delay in her trial date. Her father, Basem, has been summoned for interrogation. Her mother, Nariman, is still being held in detention.
This update from Basem:
“They dragged Ahed out of bed, handcuffed her and put her in the back of their military jeep. She is 16 years old.
“The next morning, my wife went to the police station to be with our daughter as she was interrogated. But Israel took her into custody as well. The following day, they arrested my 21-year-old niece Nour.
“This is too much! Israel must immediately release the Tamimi women! They must stop their persecution of my family.
“All of this started last Friday when soldiers in my village shot 15-year-old Mohammed Tamimi directly in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet. Following surgery, Mohammad had to be placed in a medically induced coma.
“Then the soldiers came to our home. Ahed and Nour slapped the soldiers in the face and pushed them back, yelling that they could not enter our home.
“The Israeli military is threatened by our regular protests, by our refusal to live with occupation.”
Focus on ‘slapping’ What some people will focus on reading this or hearing the news will be the slapping of an Israeli soldier by a 16-year-old Palestinian girl.
What we don’t usually hear about is the provocation that leads to the reaction. In this case we do … the shooting of a rubber bullet in the face of the girl’s 15-year-old brother which has left her brother in an induced coma, and the ongoing history of harassment that family has experienced .
In the light of all this suffering by the Palestinians over 50 years and in an effort to end the violence and the occupation, Palestine leadership some years ago asked the international community to support them in one of the few nonviolent ways pressure can be brought to bear on the occupying force, that is through the BDS movement – the boycott of Israel, as was done in the past to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.
New Zealand and New Zealanders have done that in the past. Let’s continue to do this for all the children and young people of our world, who suffer at the hands of military power, for Ahed and Mohammad, for their grandmother, for their mother and father, for the whole Tamimi family.
Sister Barbara Cameron is a Mission Sister in Morrinsville.
Headline: True Christmas story: What history really tells us about the birth of Jesus
Your average Christmas card featuring a peaceful nativity scene bears little resemblance to what happened in that “first Christmas”. Image: Lifesite News
ANALYSIS:By Robyn J. Whitaker in Melbourne
I might be about to ruin your Christmas. Sorry. But the reality is those nativity plays in which your adorable children wear tinsel and angel wings bear little resemblance to what actually happened.
Neither does your average Christmas card featuring a peaceful nativity scene. These are traditions, compilations of different accounts that reflect a later Christian piety. So what really happened at that so-called “first Christmas”?
Firstly, the actual birth day of Jesus was not December 25. The date we celebrate was adopted by the Christian church as the birthday of Christ in the fourth century.
Prior to this period, different Christians celebrated Christmas on different dates.
Contrary to popular belief that Christians simply adapted a pagan festival, historian Andrew McGowan argues the date had more to do with Jesus’s crucifixion in the minds of ancient theologians. For them, linking Jesus’s conception with his death nine months prior to December 25 was important for underscoring salvation.
Only two of the four gospels in the Bible discuss Jesus’s birth. Luke recounts the story of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, the couple’s journey to Bethlehem because of a census and the visit of the shepherds.
It features Mary’s famous song of praise (‘Magnificat’), her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, her own reflection on the events, lots of angels and the famous inn with no room.
The inn The matter of the inn with “no room” is one of the most historically misunderstood aspects of the Christmas story. ACU scholar Stephen Carlson writes that the word kataluma (often translated “inn”) refers to guest quarters.
Most likely, Joseph and Mary stayed with family but the guest room was too small for childbirth and hence Mary gave birth in the main room of the house where animal mangers could also be found.
Hence Luke 2:7 could be translated “she gave birth to her firstborn son, she swaddled him and laid him in the feeding trough because there was no space for them in their guest room”.
The wise men Matthew’s gospel tells a similar story about Mary’s pregnancy but from a different perspective. This time, the angel appears to Joseph to tell him that his fiancé Mary is pregnant but he must still marry her because it is part of God’s plan.
“There were probably not three magi [wide men] and they were not kings.” Image: The Conversation
Where Luke has shepherds visit the baby, a symbol of Jesus’s importance for ordinary folk, Matthew has magi (wise men) from the east bring Jesus royal gifts. There were probably not three magi and they were not kings. In fact, there is no mention of the magi’s number, there could have been two or 20 of them. The tradition of three comes from the mention of three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Notably, the magi visit Jesus in a house (not an inn or stable) and their visit is as late as two years after the birth. Matthew 2:16 records King Herod’s orders to kill baby boys up to the age of two based on the report about Jesus’s age from the magi. This delay is why most Christian churches celebrate the visit of the magi on “Epiphany” or January 6.
Notably absent from these biblical accounts is Mary riding a donkey and animals gathered around the baby Jesus. Animals begin to appear in nativity art in the fourth century AD, possibly because biblical commentators at the time used Isaiah 3 as part of their anti-Jewish polemic to claim that animals understood the significance of Jesus in a way that Jews did not.
When Christians today gather around a crib or set up a nativity scene in their homes they continue a tradition that began in the 12th century with Francis of Assisi. He brought a crib and animals into church so that everyone worshipping could feel part of the story.
Thus a popular pietistic tradition was born. Later art showing the adoration of the baby Jesus reflects a similar devotional spirituality.
A radical Christmas If we pare back the story to its biblical and historical core – removing the stable, the animals, the cherub-like angels, and the inn – with what are we left?
The Jesus of history was a child of a Jewish family living under a foreign regime. He was born into an extended family living away from home and his family fled from a king who sought to kill him because he posed a political threat.
The Jesus story, in its historical context, is one of human terror and divine mercy, of human abuse and divine love. It is a story that claims God became human in the form of one who is vulnerable, poor and displaced in order to unveil the injustice of tyrannical power.
While there is nothing wrong with the devotional piety of Christian tradition, a white-washed nativity scene risks missing the most radical aspects of the Christmas story.
The Jesus described in the Bible had more in common with the children of refugees born on Nauru than the majority of Australian [or New Zealand] churchgoers. He too was a brown-skinned baby whose Middle Eastern family was displaced due to terror and political turmoil.
Christmas, in the Christian tradition, is a celebration of God becoming human as a gift of love. To enjoy adorable, albeit a-historical, nativity plays and all the other wonders of the season is one way of delighting in this gift.
But if we nostalgically focus on one baby while ignoring the numerous babies who suffer around the world due to politics, religion and poverty, we miss the entire point of the Christmas story.
Robyn J. Whitaker is Bromby senior lecturer in biblical studies, Trinity College, University of Divinity, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence.