Site map
About us
 Quick search

 Advanced search
 Print this page
Background topics
 Home >> Share International magazine >> October 2005

Share International HomeShare International HomeBackground information

Share International magazine October 2005

Share International magazineThis is an abridged version of
Share International magazine.
Through these electronic files, the magazine Share International makes available a compilation of its contents.
Permission is granted to reproduce these articles in magazine, newspaper or newsletter format, provided that credit is given to Share International and clippings are sent to: PO Box 41877, 1009 DB Amsterdam, Holland. Copyright (c) 2003 Share International. All rights reserved.

Master's article

The Brotherhood of Men

by the Master —, through Benjamin Creme

Sooner or later, the reality of their interdependence will dawn upon the nations and their leaders. This realization will bring about an entirely new attitude to the problems with which, today, they wrestle, and will lead to easier, and wiser, solutions of these difficulties. A gradual change in outlook will replace the present fierce competition and confrontation with mutual understanding and co-operation. That not all nations will proceed in this direction at the same pace, must be said, but the effectiveness and obvious sanity of the method will encourage even the least sanguine, eventually, to see the benefits for all. Each step forward will cement this process and hasten the movement towards co-operation. In this way, a healthier relationship will evolve between the nations, leading in time to a true sense of brotherhood.
Many smaller nations recognize, already, the reality of interdependence but lacking power their voices go unheard. Large and powerful nations scorn such notions, their pride in self-sufficiency blinding them to the truth of their relationship with the world.

Man evolves but slowly and needs time and experiment to make significant advance, but precisely in this way do these achievements become stable and permanent.
The United Nations is, of course, the forum in which the voice of the smaller nations can be raised and heard. This is only possible when the Security Council, with its arbitrary veto, is abolished. It has outlasted its usefulness and must soon give way to a United Nations Assembly free of the abuses of power and veto.
Then will we see the nations acting without restraints imposed by Great Power veto and financial inducement. Those who call loudest for democracy in foreign lands are strangely blind to its absence in the halls of the United Nations.

Men must come to realize that the people of all the nations are one and equal, dependent each upon the other. No one nation owns, nor can rule, the world. No one nation can stand alone against the rest. The days of empire and dominion are past. Man is on the threshold of a new understanding of his role on planet Earth. This involves a change in his relationship to his fellow travellers on the path to wisdom and true stewardship of the planet’s bounty.
We, your Elder Brothers, will help men to make this change. Maitreya will set before men the alternative to action and the transformation of the world. He will show that without a change of direction the future would be difficult and bleak indeed. He will also inspire men to realize their interdependence, the reality of their Brotherhood.

(Read more articles by the Master)

Questions & Answers

Q. Why did Hurricane Katrina happen in this area, and why so intensely? Is it a gigantic releasing/cleansing of certain patterns, or massive movement of energy leaving/transitioning? What is the underlining cause?
A. The US Gulf Coast is, of course, a hurricane area and this is the season, but the extraordinary intensity (the worst in living memory) of this storm has a karmic cause. The unbelievable destructiveness of this tragic event is related to the equally destructive results of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. It is a cleansing, dissipating massive destructive force. People must learn the law of cause and effect.

Q. Could you please say how many people died due to Hurricane Katrina?
A. My information is the deathtoll will reach 12,000.

Q. (1) Why has the disaster relief been so disorganized? (2) What is George Bush’s mindset about not accepting aid from countries who have offered to help after hurricane Katrina? What are the ramifications of this?
A. (1) There is to be an investigation of what went wrong, directed by President Bush, so we can expect little that throws a bad light on the Bush administration, but there can be little doubt that had the crisis been in California or New York, or elsewhere than in a traditionally poor, black, area, the aid would have been prompt, adequate and efficient. (2) I do not imagine that he likes the idea of America receiving aid but he must realize it would look bad if he refused help when it is offered. Many people want to help.

Q. (1) Are Maitreya and the Masters helping victims of the hurricane? (2) Were people helped when they died?
A. (1) Yes, continually! (2) Yes, in thousands.

Q. Has Maitreya or any of the Masters spoken directly or indirectly with Bush in regard to Hurricane Katrina or Iraq?
A. No.

Q. Do Maitreya and the Masters feel optimistic about how people will respond?
A. Yes.

Q. Recently medical findings assert that smoking causes blindness. Are these results accurate?
A. Some people have said that since the invention of cigarettes. The cause of blindness (when it happens) is due not to the smoking but because cigarette tobacco is very prone to soak up nuclear radiation from the earth and atmosphere.

Q. Communicating with the Masters: is it something that anyone can learn to do?
A. Telepathy is a natural attribute of humanity. Everybody is telepathic, but it is largely untrained. In people who are very close, husband and wife, lovers, or mother and children, in these cases telepathy just happens. It is not something on which they rely or even think about. Telepathy as used by the Masters and those disciples who can respond is a deliberate, conscious handling of a mental faculty which we all have in potential but which is for the most part not developed. It can be enhanced by Masters, but the Masters do not do it just for fun, or to give Themselves something to do, They only do it for a reason — because They are training somebody who has a specific job to do, to be able to communicate quickly and easily with them without going through the motions of appearing before them, which takes much more energy than a flash of thought. Thought is everywhere, the planes of mind are open to everybody, all thoughts travel on the mind planes. When thought is directed and controlled as between a Master and a pupil, one has instant communication. Sometimes, the Masters appear to those disciples who have not yet developed the possibility of telepathic contact. When, through the natural processes of evolution, the aura of the disciple becomes magnetic, telepathy is established as a result. It is not something we learn to do. With practice it becomes more ‘fluent’ and usable.

Q. When a person is receiving messages from a Master, has the Master selected them for that purpose?
A. They do not do anything just by chance. Everything the Masters do has a reason behind it. They have command of tremendous energies but they are ‘miserly’ with the energy, They do not waste an ounce of energy — Their energy and energy generally.

Q. Do the telepathic abilities depend on the pupil?
A. Of course, yes. If the Masters want to make contact with a disciple who can be telepathically reached they will use telepathy. If there is no reason to use it, They don’t use it. The Masters, of course, have total mental control and use telepathy exclusively among Themselves.

(More questions and answers)

Letters to the editor

Over a number of years, some of the Masters, in particular Maitreya and the Master Jesus, have appeared, in different guises, to large numbers of people around the world. They also appear at Benjamin Creme's lectures and meditations, giving people in the audience the opportunity to intuitively recognise Them. Some people recount their experiences to Share International magazine. If the encounters are authenticated by Benjamin Creme's Master, the letters are published. These experiences are given to inspire, to guide or teach, often to heal and uplift. Very often, too, the Masters draw attention to, or comment on, in an amusing way, some fixed intolerance (for example against smoking or drinking). Many times They act as saving 'angels' in accidents, during wartime, earthquakes and other disasters. The following letters, previously published in Share International magazine, are examples of this means of communication by the Masters.

Gift of hope

Dear Editor,
When my father, who was very dear to me, passed away I plunged into grief. I tried to get back into work. I arrived early for a business meeting in a hotel and was sitting outside the room waiting for it to start. A colleague arrived and sat beside me and I unburdened myself about how Dad’s death hit me so much harder than I expected. I said that I might be feeling too vulnerable to actually go to the meeting.
I looked up and saw what appeared to be an ordinary businessman in a grey suit walking swiftly past us. As he passed me he came towards my bench, hardly slowing down at all, and stretched his hand out to give me something enclosed in his hand. I opened my hand under his and he dropped a smooth silvery object (photo) with the word HOPE on it into my palm. I looked at it in amazement and gratitude. I looked up to see him but he had left as fast as he had come, disappearing around a corner. I am an artist and usually notice what people look like, but it’s as if I did not even see his face. I have no idea what he looked like. Who was this man who gave me ‘hope’, like a ray of sunshine, and left me smiling?
F.A., Oakland, California, USA.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the ‘business man’ was Maitreya.)

Family tree

Dear Editor,
On Sunday 31 July 2005 I went to a specialist tree centre called the Ham Palm Centre, looking for an acacia tree. I found the section I wanted, and after spending some time looking at acacia trees I decided to explore the rest of the centre. When I was leaving I decided, on impulse, to look at the acacia trees again. I noticed that one had a ‘reserved’ label and out of curiosity I looked at the name. I got a shock when it read ‘S. McDaid’. The centre was very quiet with only a handful of visitors and I thought it odd that two of us were S. McDaid.
I asked the staff about the other customer with a liking for acacia trees. They said a man calling himself Shaun McDaid came in earlier that day. They recalled that he was wearing ‘leathers’, rode a motorbike and carried his helmet under his arm. He didn’t look at the trees or choose one himself. He just asked for one to be reserved for a week. This seemed odd as the specimens varied in appearance and health.
Was this a coincidence or was there something extraordinary about it?
S.M., Richmond, Surrey, UK.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that ‘Shaun McDaid’ was Maitreya.)

Etheric vision

Dear Editor,
On 22 July 1991 in Mallorca, Spain, at around 5pm we were alone at a lagoon when we noticed far away from us a small white sphere above the waters, gliding in the air, following the direction of the wind. Thinking it could have been a UFO, we jumped and waved for it to come back. Soon it went far away and we were about to lose sight of it, but continued to motion for it to come back.
Then the sphere began to look brighter and brighter, bigger and bigger.
Lowering its altitude, it was now coming back directly toward us. In no time we were standing in its presence: beautiful, perfectly round, like a big full moon, a big white sphere was now silently hovering above the waters, directly in front of us.
It ‘stayed’ there motionless, in the air, for the next 20 minutes, then suddenly changed its position in the sky — about 30 degrees to the left — and again ‘stood’ there as if studying us. Every 20 to 30 minutes the sphere was repeating the same movement (to the left or to the right). As the evening progressed and the full moon became visible, we were mesmerized by the scenery: big sphere of white radiant light in front of us and, as if its twin sister, the Earth’s full moon right behind it — both above the waters! It was really beautiful and unearthly.
At least 4 hours passed and all that time the sphere was in front of us: hovering, changing position to the left or to the right every 20 to 30 minutes. Once it even glided directly above our heads and paused right above the lagoon where we were standing, then returned to its position above the waters. At one point a British couple asked us what we were staring at and when we responded the couple just gave us a blank look and left.
Suddenly, two numbers appeared on the ‘surface’ of the sphere and for an hour or so the numbers remained displayed on the Sphere, until around 10pm, when they disappeared as suddenly as they appeared.
The late evening sky now was dancing with stars. The beautiful sphere of light once more glided toward us, hovered above our heads and then began slowly ascending straight upward, appearing smaller and smaller, further and further away from us. Would it be possible to let us know what this sphere was and what did the numbers stand for?
B. and J. S, Troy, New York, USA.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the Sphere was manifested by an American Master of the 6th ray Ashram, Who lives in America. The writers were temporarily granted etheric vision.)

Light fantastic

Dear Editor,
Opposite the block of flats where I live there is another block that often has patterns of light on the walls. Late afternoon on 9 September 2005, a day when the circles of light were visible, I was sitting outside my flat in the sun reading, when a moving light kept catching my eye. I looked up and after a while noticed that there were two white circles or balls of light which moved very fast, darting across the walls of my flats and the ones opposite. It was as if they were chasing each other. This continued for quite a while. What was this, and did it have anything to do with the patterns of light?
TC, London, UK.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the lights are an effect of the energy invested in the patterns of light, which are energetic in nature. Each pattern grounds an energy. They are manifested by the Space Brothers in association with Maitreya.)

Searching for signs

Dear Editor,
On 5 August 2005, while my companion Charles and I were staying in Wiltshire, England, we went to the Silent Cafe in Cherhill, a place for people interested in crop circles.
I suddenly became aware of a man sitting at the same table as me, smiling, and I turned around and started talking with him. He had small round glasses, a somewhat amused look in his eyes and was very friendly. Charles remembers him as tall, rather tanned and with black hair.
He told us he was an American living in France and was a music teacher and often came to Switzerland to teach. His French was perfect with hardly any accent. He had been coming to England every year to visit the crop circles and had been there for two weeks, visiting them on a bicycle. This was his last day.
He was with a friend who lived in the area, a Frenchwoman who had never been in a crop circle — he had taken her to two crop circles. I told him about the light phenomena appearing on houses and how we had taken many photographs of these in Lausanne, and explained to him what they looked like. He seemed interested and asked: “Is it like a Celtic cross?” I said: “Yes,” and promised that I would send him some photographs.
Charles joined the discussion and asked the man if he knew about Share International. He answered: “Yes, I have known Benjamin Creme very well for many years. I’ve done Transmission Meditation with the tetrahedron. In fact, I chose Lyon to live because they had a big meditation group.” He did not say whether he was still meditating but seemed to have a very positive attitude towards it. He gave us his name and address.
Charles and I were amazed by the humble attitude of the woman who was with him. She was listening attentively to what was being said but she did not take part in the conversation. She sat as if she wanted to be lower than the man, bent forward resting her arms on her knees. As she was not saying a word, I asked her if she spoke French and she just said: “I am French.” There was something very gentle about her.
They left after saying goodbye. We were thrilled with this encounter because there was such friendliness emanating from these two people. Then we reflected that it was really odd that this man would spend two weeks travelling on a bicycle visiting crop circles. During our stay we visited many crop circles and met some interesting people but these two people were special and different from all others we met.
It was so special that we wondered whether they could have been Maitreya and Master Jesus.
N.W. and C.S. Lausanne, Switzerland.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man was Maitreya and the ‘woman’ was the Master Jesus.)

Healing by the book

Dear Editor,
When I was seven years old I had an accident. I put my arm through a glass door. I was rushed to the emergency room where the personnel had a hard time getting the bleeding to stop. At one point, only my father and I were in the room, when a stranger walked in. My father and he exchanged acknowledgements. My father assumed he was a Minister. He had a dark suit on and was very tall. He was also carrying a little black book, which to us appeared to be a Bible. He opened it and read something out of it, then left the room. The bleeding started to cease. My father quickly walked out of the room to thank the stranger, but he was nowhere to be found. My mother had been at the front desk giving them information about me. She met my father walking up the only hallway and said she didn’t pass anyone and no one fitting that description ever passed her at the door. My father came back and asked the doctor if he knew who the stranger was — he said he hadn’t seen anyone. My father is Reverend Joe Bullard.
Who was the tall stranger in the dark suit?
A.W., Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the ‘stranger’ was Maitreya.)

Signs of the time

Miraculous escape

A sales manager from Hamilton, New Zealand, says he “counts his lucky stars” after he was able to walk away from a collision with two trucks which reduced his car to smithereens.
The 51-year-old, who had been driving south to work at about 8.30am, could remember only “thinking about living” when his Subaru Legacy collided with a truck travelling in the same direction and was sent spinning across the road into the path of a second, northbound truck. He suffered only minor scratches and bruises and discharged himself from hospital before noon the same day.
(Source: Waikato Times, New Zealand)
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the driver was saved by the Master Jesus.)

Sweet miracle of a bitter tree

The neem tree has for countless ages been known in India as a virtual cure-all, its leaves, bark and oil being used for a wide variety of ailments. Now a neem tree in Salempur Jattan village, near Ghanour, on the Punjab-Haryana state border in India has been attracting the attention of thousands of people.
The crowds are being attracted by news of a miracle neem tree which is oozing a liquid which is sweet. The tree started oozing “sweet tears” late last year (2004); it was discovered to be sweet by servers at a Sikh temple who drank the liquid and found it relieved skin problems and joint pains.
Devotees have been visiting the tree and have been drinking the liquid believing it to have “supernatural powers”.
The nearby Sikh temple organizes community kitchens and round-the-clock prayers; they are also providing parking space.
The temple workers have placed pans at the foot of the tree to collect the “sweet neem tears” which continues to ooze out of the tree at an abnormally copious rate. According to botanists, such a phenomenon - of sap oozes out from a neem tree continuously for the entire day is not usual or normal. About six litre of the liquid oozes out of two branches per day.
The miraculous substance is distributed to the devotees as “prasad” (holy water or food) when they come to the temple to pray.
The “sweet tears” seem cure various diseases like joint pain, skin diseases, asthma and diabetes. (Source: Punjab India News, India)

Image of Jesus in fountain

An image of Jesus has appeared on a photograph taken by Tom Brobakke at Bragenes Torg, Drammen, Norway, on 9 July 2005. He had photographed a fountain and on returning home found it contained the image of a figure in the fountain with hands stretched upwards. Norway’s biggest newspaper, VG, carried the story with the words: “Look carefully at this picture: it may prove that Jesus appeared in Drammen Thursday evening.” (Source: VG, Norway)
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the image was created by the Master Jesus.)

Brazil military releases UFO files

High-ranking members of the Brazilian Air Force have officially met with a committee of top UFO researchers to discuss sightings in the country, and allowed researchers to examine classified UFO documents in several military facilities. “We want to have all information on the subject, which has been withheld by us for some decades, fully released to the public, through the UFO community,” said Brigadier Telles Ribeiro, chief of the Brazilian Air Force Communication Center.
Brazilian military officials also released important UFO files to researchers, according to A. J. Gevaerd of the Brazilian Committee of UFO Researchers. These files include documents from 1977 that cover dozens of cases of UFOs in the Amazon, with over 100 photos made during Operation Saucer, an official Brazilian military investigation that was carried out between September and December 1977. Other files involved “The Official Night of UFOs in Brazil” in May 1986, when 21 objects over 100 metres in diameter jammed Brazilian air traffic control systems over Rio de Janeiro, Sao Jose dos Campos and Sao Paulo. Several jets were sent to intercept the unidentified objects, but without success.
A Brazilian Air Force commander, Brigadier Atheneu Azambuja, told UFO researchers that the Brazilian military is concerned about the UFO phenomenon, and that the country has systematically detected and documented UFOs in the country since 1954.
Brazilian Air Force representatives at these meetings said that further steps will be taken to let researchers examine all military UFO files in a more comprehensive way. A committee of military and civilian UFO researchers was scheduled to start operating soon, co-ordinated by the Brazilian Committee of UFO Researchers.

UFO reports declassified

The British Ministry of Defence has released thousands of classified documents relating to UFO sightings reported in the 1970s. Now available to the public at the National Archive are documents from the MOD’s UFO department, SF4, revealing credible reports of unidentified flying objects from RAF personnel, British Airways pilots and senior police officers.
In July 1977 an RAF pilot, Flight Lieutenant A.M. Wood and two colleagues reported “bright objects hanging over the sea”, the closest being “luminous, round and four to five times larger than a Whirlwind helicopter”. One was seen to change shape “to become body shaped with projections like arms and legs”. They observed the objects for an hour and 40 minutes. At the same time the objects were picked up at two British radar stations.
A British Airways Tristar pilot returning from Portugal in July 1976 reported four objects, “two round brilliant white, two cigar-shaped”, 18 miles north of Faro. Alarmed by the sightings, he reported them to air traffic controllers at Lisbon and London, and fighters were immediately scrambled from Lisbon. The documents also contain details of unexplained lights in the sky reported by police officers.
These witnesses were taken more seriously than members of the general public, who were dismissed on such grounds as having just emerged from a ‘pub’ or having reported sightings too frequently. (Source: The Independent, UK)

Microscopic UFO seen by chemical-imaging camera

A chemical-imaging camera that assists scientists in analysing objects and their chemical composition was recently unveiled in one of India’s top research and development laboratories. The camera is capable of picking up a microscopic chemical pattern and, within seconds, generating a three-dimensional data cube of spectral, spatial and intensity information.
While analysing data from the camera, the scientists came across a set of photographs of a tiny Unidentified Flying Object (UFO), invisible to the naked eye. Because an infrared camera that had also been in use during the same time had not picked up any data, the scientists postulated that the UFO was a remote controlled, non-heat producing craft without any life forms inside it. The scientists also observed that when the chemical-imaging camera captured the details of the UFO, the UFO’s manoeuvers suggested that it detected the presence of the chemical-imaging camera in the vicinity.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the tiny object was a remote-controlled detector which was there specifically to inspect the chemical-imaging camera. It had been sent out from a Venusian spacecraft, a laboratory ship.)

Each and every one is valuable

Interview with Giri Sequoya
by Michiko Ishikawa

Giri SequoyaAt the Network of Spiritual Progressives Conference held in Berkeley, California, in July 2005, I met Giri Sequoya (photo), a soft-spoken, demure woman from India, who talked at a workshop on ‘The Practice of Non-violence’ about her experiences working with poverty-stricken village women in southern India.
Giri grew up in an upper-middle class family of the Brahmin caste, the highest in India. From an early age, she was deeply disturbed by the injustice and discrimination she witnessed against lower caste and economically deprived people. When Giri was nine years old, her maidservant had a baby girl and wanted Giri’s grandmother to bless the baby. Her grandmother scolded the maid for asking her to touch a baby from the lowest ‘untouchable’ caste. Giri defiantly went to the maid’s house to give her own baby brother’s clothes to the newborn, and asked to hold the baby. She also asked for some food and water while visiting. Her horrified grandmother dunked Giri in water to purify her and burned her clothes. Giri told her grandmother: “You washed me and burned my clothes, but I ate her food and drank her water. How do you purify what’s inside of me? You say she is untouchable, but her baby feels just as soft as my baby brother.”
Giri left home around 1970 when she was 19 years old and unmarried, because she refused her father’s wish for her to marry her cousin. As a result, she was forced to experience first-hand what it was like to be a woman in a country where women are deemed to be men’s possessions, to be a single woman without a man’s ‘protection’. Giri struggled to protect herself and quickly learned survival skills and a knowledge of legal rights and rules. Between 1986 and 1995 she was employed as a development worker for a number of non-governmental organizations. Giri worked with women and children, and was especially interested in teaching children to respect all human beings regardless of gender, caste and race.

Economic power for women

In 1992, as part of her job with an NGO called ANITRA (Asian Network for Innovative Training, Research and Action), she was collecting oral histories on medicinal herbs and trees from elderly women in villages on the border between the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. As they had a sympathetic listener, the village women began talking to Giri about their problems, how everything they had brought as dowries such as jewelry, money and cows was squandered. All the wages they earned working in paddy fields had to be handed over to their husbands. If they took even one rupee, their husbands would know. The men used the money to buy liquor. Illegal home-brewed alcohol was sold in plastic packets to the poor village men, destroying the village economy and the life of women and children. The women could not appeal to the authorities because the police and other government officials were themselves involved in this illegal business.

Giri realized that it was important for the women to have economic power. She talked to them about the power they could generate and encouraged them to take charge of their own lives. “We formed a women’s sanga (union or group). Every household in the village had to be represented by a woman. If they did not have an older woman, a four-year-old girl could be a member.” There were about 45 households in the village. The women grew vegetables in their gardens to feed their families. “So they stashed some vegetables to sell, and began earning money. But since they each lived in a tiny one-room hut, the only place a woman could hide the money was inside her bra. But they had to hide them from their husbands! They became afraid.”

In order to keep the money away from their husbands, they wanted to open a bank account. But a woman could not open an account without a man’s signature. Giri went to a block development officer to ask for his signature. Each five or six villages form a block, which is headed by a government officer. His job is to help develop the villages’ economy, but he is often reluctant to do so for fear of losing his job. When Giri visited the block office, the officer refused even to talk to her, let alone sign the paper, and tried to chase her away, but Giri sat in front of his toilet to wait for him. She told him that it was his duty to help village people develop their economy. Taken aback by her knowledge, he reluctantly signed the paper and a bank account was opened in the name of the women’s sanga.

Because every household was mentioned as a member, three women co-signed the paper. “It was amazing the music, the singing and dancing those women did when they learned they had a bank account they could control. They felt able to enter into the government system.” This realization changed the women. They were not educated, and could not even write their own names, but they felt powerful. Every week, they deposited the extra money they earned from selling vegetables.
When the deposit reached 1,000 rupees, and the account showed regular deposit records, they were able to take out a loan for 3,000 rupees. “With the bank loan, we decided to buy chickens. Every household got a chicken.” The chickens produced eggs. Then the women bought a rooster to produce more chickens. Soon there were eggs and poultry to sell. After that they bought goats. “At first we could only afford to buy four goats, so they belonged to the whole village. As the goats produced kids, almost every household received a goat.”

“As we gained financial status and became more confident in ourselves, the men’s attitude began to change. They began to look at the women ‘in awe’. We decided to tackle the liquor problem because the men were drinking even more. They felt anxious, wondering how these women were becoming more and more independent. It was no use for the women to tell them not to drink or refuse to go to bed with them, because they would get beaten and raped.”
The village women realized that they could not prevent their men from drinking but could prevent the liquor from entering the village. They staged a dharna (sitting and protesting non-violently) on the gravel road connecting the village to the main road. The women divided themselves into two groups and took turns — 15 to 20 of them would sit on the road while others did their household chores. “We spread our laundry and grains to dry, sat there doing the children’s hair, or shooing away crows from attacking our grains. The children played around us.
“When the liquor trucks came, the drivers asked: ‘How can we drive here?’ We said: ‘Sorry, but you can’t expect us to take all these clothes away. Some of them belong to other women in the village. You have to go find them. Why don’t you get off the truck and walk?’” The women spoke to them innocently and sweetly. Because the drivers were government officials, involved in an illegal business, they could not simply ram through the women and children. They were forced to go to another village.

“The men were very angry because their weekly quota of liquor was not coming. So they went to other villages.” When the women from other villages found out how they stopped the liquor trucks from entering the village, those women used the same technique. Gradually this approach was duplicated by one village after another. By the time Giri left in 1995, seven villages had solved the illegal liquor trade problem.
Faced with strong, confident women with economic power, the head men of the village realized that they had to make peace with the women. “They asked us what they could do to be friends. We said we wanted one of the members of the Panchayat to be a woman and that we did not want police or other government officials to come into our village.” The Panchayat was made up of five elderly men who took care of village affairs. The women said that the five members of the Panchayat, including one woman, could settle village disputes without bringing in the police. If a police or government official wanted to come into the village, they had to get permission from all five elders of the Panchayat. If those conditions were met, the women would work with men as partners, including sharing economic gains.
The men agreed, and the traditional form of village self-government, the Panchayat Raj, was resurrected, reducing the opportunity for corruption by government officials. Giri says that this new model of Panchayat Raj has been adopted in many villages, not only in that particular area but also throughout the country, and is still spreading. She believes that women are contributing to the village economy, so they should have a say in how the resources of the village are handled.
Giri subsequently left India and currently lives in Australia. But she returns to India every year to work with young women and children, especially female students who want to become social workers. She teaches women to stand up for themselves, to be their own person while working within the cultural norms of their society.

Alternatives to Violence Project

Giri Sequoya now works with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP. When she learned about AVP in 1995, she wanted to work with them because she has always felt strongly about equality and finding goodness in people. Giri is a volunteer, traveling to wherever she is invited. She has conducted nearly 600 workshops in prisons and various communities in the USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand, India and other countries. week after this interview.
AVP began in 1975 in Green Haven State Prison in New York. A group of inmates serving life sentences, having watched young people from their own housing developments and communities return again and again to prison, tried to talk with members of youth gangs and other teenagers so that they would not waste their lives in prison. Unable to get through to the young people, the inmates invited the Quakers to help, and developed a series of conflict resolution workshops. The program was so successful that it spread not only throughout New York state prisons but also to other states as well as 40 countries. Each workshop lasts three full days and is designed to offer conflict resolution skills experientially. AVP also trains the prison inmates themselves to be workshop facilitators.

Giri says her main goal is to help the inmates recognize that they are valuable human beings. The moment they recognize they are valuable, they treat others as valuable people. “I help each one recognize what a beautiful child of God he is.” She described how she and a team of three or four volunteers conduct workshops:
“On the first day, we have an open-ended session and hear why they came to the workshop. They say: ‘I’m here because my parole officer said I should go.’ We tell them: ‘We are volunteers and want you to come here because you want to, not because you were told to come. So you can leave anytime you want. If you feel this is not working for you, feel free to leave.’ Usually by the end of the first day, most of them want to come back. We don’t ask them about their crimes or sentences. I don’t care what brought them to prison. What I care about is that they are human beings. I want to see goodness in each person. When you see good things in yourself and honor the good things in other people, you begin communicating with each other, co-operating with each other. Then trust in the community is born.
“I ask them: ‘How many of you here like conflict? How many of you would like to live a life without conflict, a peaceful, loving, wonderful life?’ Everybody’s hands go up. Then I ask them: ‘How many of you like to watch television or movies or read books where there is no conflict — a beautiful family with a mommy and daddy with a beautiful daughter and a handsome boy, no conflict? Would you watch a movie like that? No, there has to be a villain, a plot. So you like conflict. It is conflict that gives you the spice in life. If there is no conflict, there is no life. Conflict is not bad, but how you solve a conflict is an art we must learn.

“‘For example, if my husband and I have an issue, he makes me angry. I can take an axe and chop his head off. End of problem. But is it? I just created a bigger problem. I will be counting the bars in my prison cell. What kind of life is that? So how can I resolve the conflict in such a way that I can live with myself, you can live with yourself, and we can live together as friends, having conquered the conflict between us? The more we work with the conflict together, the closer our bond becomes. When you resolve a conflict you have to take a moment and say: ‘I need to be safe. The other person has to be safe. We have to come out of this together. That’s what we are going to learn, and you’re going to help me in that.’ And they say: ‘What?’ And I say: ‘Yes. You have been there. You have committed a murder. I haven’t. So there is so much you can help me with because you have had the experience. Tell me what can be done. Tell me what I can do when I feel like killing my husband so that I don’t end up in prison.’ They come up with strategies, alternatives to violence. But they don’t realize it because I’m just talking to them, pulling it out of them.”

Giri related a story about an inmate who told her to tell his story to anyone she wished to. He was charged with a violent crime and put into isolation. When he came to the workshop, it was the first time in three years he had been in contact with so many people. At first he was not communicative. He sat with his back to the wall, close to the door. His body language indicated that he did not feel safe there, but none the less took part in the workshop for the entire three days.
The change in him was dramatic. Soon after the workshop, the judge who had sentenced him came to visit the prison. The inmate was extremely angry at the judge and wanted to slash his face. He took a plastic knife and sharpened it, hid it in his sleeve, and stood outside his cell waiting for the judge to come by. He was building up the anger within him, remembering the court scene, the jurors looking at him, the prosecutors talking to him as if he were scum that crawled out of the earth, and the judge looking down at him from his bench. At that moment, one of the wardens happened to walk by. She had no idea what was going on inside him. She said very cheerfully: “Good for you, Johnny. I saw you going to that AVP workshop. I’m so glad you are taking charge of your life. It fills me with goodness to see that.” At that moment, his mind switched. He remembered the workshop where everybody had something positive to say about him. At the end of the workshop, each participant helps to create an affirmation poster for every other participant. Every one writes a positive comment about that person in colored ink. Each person is then given a colored sheet with about 25 positive comments written by everyone in the workshop. The inmate said to himself: “I’m too valuable a human being. The moment I slash his face, I will only make my life worse.” He broke off the knife.

Giri says: “What I admire about the historical Jesus is that he lived a life of example. Example is what people see. My children don’t see how many times I go to church, but do see how I’m treating a child crying on the road. If my actions don’t speak, my words are hollow. We are all human beings and each and every one is valuable. We must live a life that treats other lives with respect. My daughter told me when she was nine years old, talking about the Gulf War in Iraq — each human being, each life looks like a piece of the jigsaw puzzle, different colors, different shapes and contours. Every piece is needed to make a whole. If we kill one person, if we throw away one piece, the whole puzzle is destroyed; we cannot make a whole picture. A piece in one corner of the puzzle will never see a piece on the opposite corner, but if one piece is missing, we cannot complete a whole picture.”
Further information:

Getting the truth out

Interview with Robert Fisk
by Andrea Bistrich

Robert FiskRobert Fisk is an eminent British journalist whose in-depth reports on the Middle East have for years provided a much-needed counterbalance to the official government line, and have empowered activists all over the world.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the ensuing US-led occupation, Fisk, as long-standing Middle East correspondent for UK newspaper The Independent, was stationed in Baghdad and filed many eyewitness reports. He covered the Iranian revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War and the conflict in Algeria. One of two Western journalists to stay in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war, when kidnapping was rife, he subsequently published Pity the Nation, a history of that war. When the US launched its post-9/11 attack on Afghanistan, he covered the conflict from Pakistan, and wrote a graphic account of his own extraordinary rescue from angry Afghan refugees.
Robert Fisk has been awarded the British International Journalist of the Year Award seven times, and the Amnesty International UK Press Awards for his reports from Algeria (1998) and articles on the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (2000).
Now Fisk, whose critical reportage of US and Israeli policy in the Middle East has made him the target of American hate-mail and death threats, is about to publish a new book, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. “It’s a journalist’s job to be a witness to history,” he says. “We are not here to worry about ourselves. We are there to try and get as near as we can, in an imperfect world, to the truth and get the truth out.”
Andrea Bistrich interviewed him in Beirut, Lebanon, for Share International.

Share International: You have spent almost your whole career as a journalist in the Middle East, reporting from the world’s worst trouble-spots. Why did you choose such a dangerous place to live and work?
Robert Fisk: In 1976 I was working as The Times correspondent in Portugal, and they offered me the post. At that time the civil war in Lebanon had been going on for almost a year. I was 29 — being offered the post of Middle East correspondent of The Times of London was a great opportunity. So I came here, and have been ever since.

SI: You could have left after two or three years, but you stayed. Why?
RF: The paper didn’t want me to leave; they liked the reporting I was doing for them, and as far as I was concerned I didn’t want to leave either — it was such a big story. I was watching this huge historical tragedy being played out and I wanted to see what would happen in the ‘next chapter’ all the time. It’s a bit like reading a book late at night: just one more chapter before you are going to bed, one more chapter in bed, and then a few more pages and more — eventually you see dawn coming through the curtains and you realize that you can’t get away from it, it’s ‘unputdownable’. And that’s what the Middle East is — ‘unputdownable’.

SI: The most dangerous place in the Middle East at the moment seems to be Iraq. Everyday we witness more explosions, more assassinations and more attacks. And for what? If the war was not about weapons of mass destruction (now proved not to have existed), or about the supposed link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, what is it about?
RF: The invasion was illegal, wasn’t it? Kofi Annan said it was illegal, too. It was a totally dishonest war fought for false reasons. The real reasons are becoming more and more evident. It’s a disaster for Iraqi people, and we are now reduced to saying: “Well, Saddam was worse.” If you say: “He put people into mass graves,” compare that with what we are doing: shooting down people at checkpoints and abusing detainees sexually in Abu Ghraib.
If you constantly use someone like Saddam — who was a wicked man, a grotesque figure, a crazy mixture of Donald Duck and Don Corleone — if you are always going to compare yourself to that kind of person, then the shame of Abu Ghraib under Saddam (which was his most shameful symbol) will inevitably become our shame too. And it has. The interesting thing is that when those Abu Ghraib pictures came out, all the world was shocked, except for the Iraqis who assumed that’s how the Americans behaved anyway.
What do I say about Iraq? If someone says America didn’t go there for oil, then answer the question: If the main export was asparagus, would the Americans be there? No, they wouldn’t. America and its ‘friends’ went to Iraq for two reasons: oil is the first one. (And war primes the pump of the American economy.) The second reason I realised when I was sitting along a roadside on Highway 8 in Iraq sometime ago.
A co-worker of the Red Cross had been murdered in a Red Cross vehicle and I was trying to find people who saw it happen. I was talking to an Iraqi family, when suddenly the ground began to shake. I turned round and saw massive American convoys — the biggest roulement of military forces since the Second World War: hours and hours of Abrams tanks, M1A1s, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, truck after truck, soldiers, Humvees — all moving up into the wilderness of occupation on the Tigris and Euphrates.

We sat in the mud by the road and just watched this. I was trying to find out what the war was about. I realized that 2,000 years ago a little further to the west, nearer the sea, the Roman Legion had done the same thing.
One of the reasons why we invaded Iraq — by ‘we’ I mean the West or Britain and America (America really, let’s be honest) — is the sheer physical, visceral need to project massive power. “We can go to Baghdad, so we will go to Baghdad! We can topple regimes across the land of Sumeria — we will, we can!” That’s what imperialism is about — we can do it, so we will! That’s what expansion is about.
Look now across the world at the American forces and bases: Iceland, Britain, Germany, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Yemen now, Algeria. They’ve got special troops in Egypt. They tried in Somalia but failed; and they tried Lebanon in 1983 and it failed. But everywhere else, they are there.
What comes next? Iran? Uzbekistan? Turkmenistan? And what’s on the other side of the globe? China!

SI: Was the price worth paying for the removal of the Iraqi dictator?
RF: Resolution 1559 [the UN Resolution calling on Syria to withdraw from Lebanon] effectively destroyed the Syrian regime in Lebanon. Not yet entirely, but it cut a lot of fingers. Couldn’t we have had a resolution that could have got rid of the Ba’ath Party and that could have got rid of Saddam? There must have been other ways to get rid of Saddam. There must have been other pressures to bring him down.
We, the West, wouldn’t have got what we wanted, though. But didn’t we say we want democracy? “Oh, we have democracy for you!” But the Iraqis say: “Give us some electricity!” US Administrator Paul Bremer said: “Iraq is not yet ready, it must have a constitution written by the UN.”

SI: Recently, Iraqi Justice Minister Adel Hussein Shandal accused America of concealing information about the deposed President Saddam Hussein that could be damaging to many countries. He said there were “lots of secrets” that America wants to hide.
RF: One of the reasons why the Americans don’t really want a trial, and certainly why they tried to switch the sound off at the first hearing, is that they do not want Saddam embarking on a long speech about his own earlier good relations with them. So he’s got to be silenced. And when he’s put on trial you are going to have silent trials, I suspect.

SI: According to an official statement Saddam and an unknown number of former Ba’ath regime officials are supposed to be put on trial, in a special Iraqi court scheduled for 2006.
RF: In 2003 we were told that as soon Saddam is caught he will go on trial. He was caught, but there was no trial. The moment he was caught in 2003 we were told he would be on trial within six months. It didn’t happen. Then it was said Saddam would be on trial early this year, 2005. He wasn’t. Then the government said “in two months’ time”. I promise he won’t be on trial in two months’ time.
This is just circuses for the people — while the Iraqis are sitting there in the heat with no electricity and their families being chopped down.

I put to Robert Fisk our information about the supposed Saddam Hussein being a ‘double’ — rather than the real Saddam who, according to Benjamin Creme, was killed during the first days of the US attack on Baghdad. Mr Fisk was of the opinion that the real Saddam is the person we see in US-Iraqi custody awaiting trial. He went on to make some comments about American tactics which had backfired badly, leading to the insurrection.

SI: What will happen to Saddam? The Americans can’t hide him for ever, can they?
RF: He is a ghost on the scene now. He’s just a man who brings out the dark. Did you ever read Animal Farm by George Orwell? “You don’t want Mr Jones back, do you? No, no.” All the pigs running around. “Remember Mr Jones?” That’s what happens in Iraq now. “Remember Saddam? Bah, bah,” the Iraqis are supposed to “bah” now, but they don’t “bah”.
The Americans made a big miscalculation on Saddam. They thought that they could end the insurrection by capturing Saddam. That was the aim.
Many Iraqis told me: “We want to join the insurrection, but we won’t, because if it’s successful we may get Saddam back. But, if they [the US] capture Saddam, we will fight the Americans.” And so the capture of Saddam lit the fuel of the insurrection. It was the very opposite of what US Administrator Paul Bremer thought would happen. When he stood up and said: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we got him!”, from that moment the insurrection could not be put out.

SI: According to a recent BBC article plans have been drawn up to withdraw thousands of US and UK troops from Iraq by the spring of 2006. It is said that the UK’s 8,500 troops in Iraq could be cut to 3,000, while the US plans to cut its troops from 176,000 to 66,000. How realistic is such a pull-out plan?
RF: They are not going to do it. The Americans must leave Iraq, and the Americans want to leave Iraq — but they can’t leave Iraq. That is the equation that turns sand into blood. They believe if they leave there will be civil war, but that won’t happen. There has never been a civil war in Iraq.
The best thing that can happen at the moment is if this Iraqi government says: “We demand that by 24 August (for instance) every American soldier has left Iraq,” then the insurrection would certainly support the government. But they can’t say that; because they are beholden to the Americans, they have to live in their little Green Zone, guarded by the Americans.

SI: What are the first steps for peace and a democratic process in Iraq?
RF: Get out of Iraq. We keep on saying that Arabs won’t have democracies, that they won’t have freedoms and that they’d like some of our shiny, brittle democracy, that they’d like freedom from the secret police and freedom from the dictators (who we largely put there).
But they would also like freedom from us. And they want justice, which is sometimes more important than ‘democracy’. The Middle East is just veined with injustices — historical injustices, present day injustices — often created by us.
Every time Bush says “Sharon is a man of peace”, or “the settlements may have to stay in the West Bank”, the injustices go on. Each morning as soon as we turn on the radio it’s going on.

SI: Is peace in the Middle East really possible?
RF: It needs a genuinely neutral party to bring about Middle East peace. The Americans cannot be that. Superpowers cannot be peacekeepers, and Superpowers cannot be peacemakers unless they have conquered the entire area.
One of the problems in the case of Palestine is that we did reach a stage where most Palestinians accepted the partition of Palestine and were prepared to stay in 22 per cent of it as stated in the Oslo Agreement in 1993. But each stage of the Oslo Agreement was broken by Israel. They made all kinds of changes.
Now the Palestinians have even less than 22 per cent and so much blood has gone down the river that I think most Palestinians will not settle for 22 per cent. Now they want all of Palestine back. So you are going back to what you had just after 1948.
America’s stewardship of peace in the Middle East has been a lamentable, cowardly and gutless affair, because they will not deal fairly with both sides. The Israelis set the agenda, the Americans support the Israelis, and the Palestinians are told: “Stop terrorism.” And when the Palestinians say: “Look, they’ve just built another settlement, that’s against the Roadmap, you said that they couldn’t do that,” the Americans say: “It is up to the parties themselves to sort this out.” And we all know who the “parties” are — one is a very big party with nuclear weapons, and then there’s a very little party which has many refugees in another country.
You have to go back to the partition of Palestine; you have to go back and get the settlements closed down. The West Bank must not and cannot belong to Israel. Israel wants to continue building settlements in the West Bank — that’s the purpose of getting out of Gaza.

SI: Your new book The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East will be published in October 2005. Could you give us a glimpse of what is in it?
RF: It’s a book about refusing the narrative of history as it’s laid down by our leaders, politicians, masters, presidents and prime ministers. It’s a book about refusing to obey their orders; refusing to accept what we are told to do. It’s also really an epic of history of the last hundred years in the Middle East, but it includes, too, a firsthand account of bloodshed and war. It is told mainly through my eye-witnessing of the Iran-Iraq war, Israel-Palestine conflict, Afghanistan, the Algerian war, Lebanon and so on. It also asks whether it is possible to switch off history — to say: enough! The Balfour Declaration [1917], Sykes-Picot Agreement [1916], the Sèvres treaty [1920], the promises to the Arabs — let’s start again! We in the West can say: okay, 1945 — that was it. We start a new Europe — and we have a new Europe. We can actually have a cut. But not the Middle East because the Palestinians living in the refugee camps in Sabra and Shatila are living now in the slums of their refugee camps as the direct result of the [1917] Balfour Declaration. For them [the Palestinians] it is as if Lord Balfour made his declaration last night, this morning, an hour ago — they are living it. Which is one reason why we don’t understand Arabs and Israelis, we cannot contemplate their lives. For many Israelis the Jewish Holocaust was yesterday. For Armenians their Holocaust was yesterday or this morning.
The book is not chronological, it goes backwards and forwards in time. After the chapter about me with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan it goes back to the Russian invasion, then it goes to the Iran-Iraq war. The three chapters on the Iran-Iraq war end with the execution for desertion of Iraqi soldiers, an act witnessed by an Iraqi army cameraman. The soldiers were tied up, crying for their wives and their children. Then it goes to my father in the First World War when, in 1918 on the Somme, he was ordered to execute an Australian soldier, and refused. He was court-martialled and when the war was over, as a punishment, he was ordered to move the corpses from the Western Front into the war cemeteries. The Australian soldier was executed for killing a British Military policeman in Paris, but not by my father. Another man shot him. He was 19, the same age as my father.

SI: How did you come up with the book’s title?
RF: When my father died in 1992, aged 93, I inherited his First World War campaign medal, and on the back of it was written: “The Great War for Civilisation”. And in a period of 17 months following that war the victors drew the borders of Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia and most of the Middle East. I spent my entire professional career in those countries watching the people inside those borders burning. So my father’s war gave us this whole tragic mess.

Robert Fisk, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. Fourth Estate (Harper Collins), October 2005.
ISBN 1-8411-007-X.

The voice of the people

‘Rossport Five’ in prison for defying Shell

On one side the Irish government and oil giant Shell, on the other five ordinary men from Ireland — three farmers and two retired teachers. Support is growing for the “Rossport five” who have been held indefinitely in prison since June 2005 for contempt of court over their opposition to Shell’s plans to bring a gas pipeline ashore.
Rossport is a small town in County Mayo in western Ireland, with a beautiful, unspoilt coastline, but 40 miles off the coast lies a large underground gasfield, the Corrib field, which contains nearly 1 trillion cubic feet of gas. The resource was discovered in 1996 and the government struck a deal with Shell and other companies to develop it. Brit O’Seighin, daughter of one of the protesters, described the effect on the area: “I love living there. Everything was absolutely grand until Shell arrived, that was 5 years ago. Shell moved in with jeeps and trucks and diggers and all the destruction started.” Locals claim that the refinery will bring them no advantage, providing only a handful of jobs and no reduction in gas prices.

But the Rossport five — Michael O’Seighin, Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin, Vincent McGrath and his brother Philip, together with other Rossport residents, are particularly objecting to what they see as a risky project by the oil company. Usually gas from undersea fields is refined and treated at sea or at the shoreline and then piped inland, but the Corrib field refinery is to be sited six miles inland. The protesters say the pipeline was designed to take pressure of 345 bar — about four times what a normal gas supply carries — and that untreated gas straight from the sea is more dangerous than refined gas.

They founded the ‘Shell to Sea’ campaign, demanding that the company should treat the gas before piping it ashore. This would cost Shell millions, which the company refuses to do, arguing that safety standards are high and that the pipeline would be three times as thick as others. A court order was issued against the five in June 2005, restraining them from obstructing Shell’s work on the pipeline. They refused to adhere to the court order and were subsequently jailed.
Not normally troublemakers, the five are described by another Rossport resident as “men of great character, part of a community revolt against Shell”. Their incarceration has led to a wave of protests from locals and some politicians, as well as supporters further afield, calling for the authorities to “Free the Rossport Five”. As one local said: “When somebody stands up like that we all have a responsibility to stand with them.” At one rally a woman proclaimed: “This touches on everything from the environment, health and safety to political corruption and the whole question of democracy.”

The campaign was helped recently when it was revealed that consultants brought in by the government were not independent as claimed but in fact had connections with Shell.
It is uncertain what the outcome of the dispute will be of this David and Goliath case, where commercial concerns are clashing with the determination of the community. The oil company has temporarily halted work on the project and called for dialogue, which the five men acknowledge in an open letter to the media: “We wish to immediately accept this offer and enter into talks to resolve the impasse. To that end we ask Shell and their government partners to immediately stand down their injunction at this time so that we can leave prison to attend these talks.”
(Sources: The Independent, UK;

Children marching for their rights

In New Delhi thousands of children took to the streetsThe city of Delhi was filled with a new sound on 8 September 2005 when thousands of children from some 24 countries took to the streets to focus attention on the problems facing children around the world.
They wore white T-shirts and red caps, carried banners and chanted their demands such as “we want education”, “let all roads lead to schools”, “no more tools in tiny hands”.
The march was organized by the Global March Against Child Labour and Bachpan Bachao Andolan on the final day of a four-day-long second Child Congress in the Capital. Founded as a group of few individuals, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) has emerged as an organization of thousands of individual supporters as well as a network of over 750 NGOs, trade unions, human rights organisations dedicated to the total elimination of child labour and quality education for all in India.

The children participating came from the Asia-Pacific rim countries as well as Africa and the Middle East: Ethiopia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Iran, Mexico, Malawi, Costa Rica, Japan and Nepal. Together the child activists formulated a charter of demands which will be submitted to the United Nations in 2006, calling for governments to take the responsibility to protect rights of children, and for expenditure on wars and weapons to be drastically cut and given instead to education. The charter also demands that the governments make a visible, practical commitment to end child labour by providing free and equal education for all.

“We want to play and go to school. We request the authorities to take note of our plight and help stop child labour,” said Kifayatulla, aged 13, who works part-time at a roadside eatery in Dhaka. Eleven-year-old child labourer Umair Choudhury, from Nepal, said: “I am happy to be among other children even though it is difficult to understand their language. I have not had to work here for the past four days and now I do not want to go back to my job.”
(Source: Hindustand Times, India;

People power closes Peruvian mines

Miners in Peru demanding greater local investmentPeru’s major mining operations are being blockaded or forced to close by local people demanding greater local investment and an end to contamination of crops and farmland.
Half the population of Peru lives in poverty, and since 2003 there have been increasing protests against mining — Peru’s most lucrative industry, particularly since strong demand for copper from China has fuelled a huge leap in profits. The demonstrators are mainly farmers protesting against the loss of their land and contamination of crops, land and irrigation systems by chemicals such as cyanide; and local residents demanding that wealthy foreign mining companies give back more — schools, hospitals and roads, for instance — to impoverished local areas chronically neglected by the government.

In late July 2005 around 1,000 demonstrators converged on the remote, British-run copper mine at Rio Blanco — a 12-hour walk from the nearest village, on the border with Ecuador — aiming to drive the miners out of the $800 million project. One protester was killed and 20 people injured, and by mid-August 500 police were still guarding the mine, protesters blocking the roads in, and the Roman Catholic church trying to broker dialogue between residents and Monterrico Metals. Also in northern Peru, escalating protests by about 4,000 local residents at BHP Billiton’s Tintaya copper mine have halted operations indefinitely, with staff being evacuated and police called in to protect the site. And Newmont Mining have had to remove equipment from Latin America’s biggest goldmine “to avoid conflict”.
(Source: Reuters;

Ethical investment

Consumers and investors have discovered their power and influence and ethical investment has grown worldwide. A US branch of the Presbyterian Church, with a membership of 2.3 million people in the USA, has announced the names of five major companies with which it will begin a new relationship — “progressive engagement”. According to the Mission Responsibility through Investment (MRTI) Committee the five companies — Caterpillar, Citigroup, ITT Industries, Motorola and United Technologies — contribute to the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine.
The Presbyterian Church has an investment portfolio worth $8 billion, included in which are companies that work in Israel and whose actions support the Israeli military’s occupation of Palestinian land.
The MRTI Committee says that corporate engagement will be gradual. The church will use dialogue, shareholder action, and as a last option, divestment, to bring about change in Israeli policies.

“We are initiating a slow, deliberate process, designed to produce opportunities for engaging companies ... through dialogue, shareholder resolutions and public pressure, so that these corporations might change their business practices which inflict harm on the innocent, and delay movement toward a just peace,” said Bill Somplatsky-Jarman of the MRTI Committee.
Since the church initially announced its plans last year, several organisations and other churches said they are taking similar measures. In February 2005, the Geneva-based World Council of Churches asked its 347 member churches to consider using financial pressure in the Middle East. “The 77-million member Anglican Communion said in May it could follow the lead of the Presbyterian Church and urged its churches to make similar studies.”
In June 2005, the Virginia and New England conferences of the United Methodist Church indicated that “they might join the growing faith-based movement, and passed resolutions urging selective divestments from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation.” (Source: IPS)