Friday, September 08, 2006

Peaceful Tomorrows

I heard on Democracy Now this morning about the global coalition of people who have lost loved ones to violence, and their new mission statement, which should be released today. Will post when I can find it online. Last night I was wondering about the significance of the fact that few people ever actually see the gas that runs our lives: it goes from being invisible in the underground tank through opaque tubing and then into the car's tank without ever being seen by us drivers...

Peaceful Tomorrows International Conference
August 3rd, 2006

Those of us who founded September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows looked outwards after September 11th, and made a connection between what happened to our family members that day and the experience of terrorism, violence and war affecting other families all over the world. Our goal was to find common ground and to move towards a time when no family, anywhere, had to experience the losses we experienced.

In December of 2001, as a handful of 9/11 families ended a symbolic peace walk from the Pentagon to the World Trade Center organized by Voices in the Wilderness (now Voices for Creative Nonviolence) founder Kathy Kelly, we began to hear from others around the world who viewed us as their counterparts, and reached out to us in solidarity.

Yitzhak Frankenthal, founder of Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace, was the first to contact us. After the official launch of our group on February 14th, 2002, coverage in the Japanese press brought us an email from the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA), asking if we would host a delegation of Hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) on a visit to the World Trade Center site. We also heard from Jo Berry in the UK, who had lost her father to an IRA bombing and had subsequently created a group called Building Bridges for Peace.

As months went by, we were encouraged by these and many other expressions of solidarity from around the world, finding their wisdom and witness to be instructional and inspirational as we charted our own course with Peaceful Tomorrows.

Since that time, members of our group have participated in more than 400 speaking events, not only in 28 states across America, but also in 14 foreign countries including Afghanistan, Britain, Canada, Colombia, France, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Turkey. We learned that if those who had suffered so terribly, and had lived under oppressive conditions that put them face to face with injustice and violence for long periods of time, could remain true to their values and find a way to focus on a struggle bigger than their own, then surely Americans, surrounded by comfort and security, could find a similar place in their hearts to conduct peace work.

We found ourselves returning the favor by reaching out to those who were suffering as a result of 9/11—family members and survivors of the Bali nightclub bombing, immigrants suffering hate crimes, civilians in Iraq who would be impacted by the US bombing campaign of their country, those who had lost family members to the train bombings in Spain and Britain. In doing so, we learned that we have much in common with them as human beings and as global citizens. We wanted to create an ongoing global network which would unite all of us and allow us to share ideas and initiatives.

And we were convinced that Americans had a lot to gain from hearing their stories of breaking the cycles of violence. In the week leading up to September 11th, 2006, we are convening a meeting of more than 30 of these extraordinary individuals from around the world who are devoted to cooperation, healing and reconciliation. Each of the men and women joining us has been personally affected by violence yet has rejected the idea of retaliating with further violence. Instead, they have successfully built bridges between groups previously in conflict, and have formed organizations to promote justice, reconciliation and genuine peace. Some have survived bombings and suffered physical loss.

Some have lost family members, and others have lost extended families. Some have witnessed the terrors of war. Others have explored forgiveness and reconciliation as part of their healing process. Together we will meet to establish an international network, and to bring our messages to the American public.

This international gathering will begin with private sessions at the Garrison Institute, 90 minutes north of New York City; at which our delegates will join members of Peaceful Tomorrows in creating an ongoing framework for keeping us connected. Then we will come to New York City to participate in a series of public events at Columbia University, Fordham University, Long Island University, New York University, Unitarian Universalist Church of All Souls, New York Society for Ethical Culture, and other locations around the City.

Today, as civilian casualties mount around the world, we hope you will support our efforts to find alternatives to war and effective solutions to terrorism and all forms of violence. Join us at public events in New York. Explore our website to learn more about our International Conference and our delegates from around the world. And please make a contribution to Peaceful Tomorrows so that we can continue our efforts. Thank you.


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