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Writing for Peace News, August 5th, 2019

Writing for Peace News

DoveTales Online

DoveTales Online, One World, One People went live on August 1st. Find work from our panel of advisers, emerging, and award-winning writers and artists, as well as the winning stories, poems and essays from our 2019 Young Writers Contest. Stats confirm we’re reaching a much broader audience online. We’re also sharing DoveTales pieces on our Facebook page, so keep and eye out for them!

Now Reading for February Issue of DoveTales Online

The reading period for our next DoveTales Online, Guest Edited by Writing for Peace Adviser, Robert Kostuck is now open. He has themed our February issue, “Gardens in the Desert: Cultivating Awareness.”

In a world where mass shootings have become commonplace, where  politicians and their supporters revel in violent and divisive rhetoric, where television sets and the internet spew hate-filled propaganda, awareness can seem like an oasis in the desert. How will we cultivate gardens of empathy, compassion, and common sense in these barren deserts?

2019 Writing for Peace Online Youth Summit

Now accepting submissions for the Youth Summit here.

Theme: Day By Day, Hand in Hand: Seeing & Creating Peace in Daily Action

This year’s summit will focus on the power of individual, community,  and grassroots activism, exploring what we as individuals can do in our day to day lives to work toward the peace we all desire and deserve.

Join young artists, writers, and activists from around the world in conversation about the matters you care about in this online gathering. Our keynotes, young people making significant change in the world, and submitted creative work from participants, invite open and caring conversations about peace and activism in our troubled times.

Young Writers Contest

Our 2020 Young Writers Contest will begin accepting entries on September 1st. We invite teachers to make our contest a part of your regular writing curriculum. Contact us at editor@writingforpeace.org.

Now accepting applications to our Panel of Advisers

Among our panel members are poets, novelists, memoirists, and essayists – artists who have achieved a level of personal integrity in their work that inspires each of us to search for our own truth. Some panel members inspire us through their life choices, perhaps recognizing a calling toward peace after they were already well established in other careers. They show us that it is never too late to find personal fulfillment in working toward a greater good.

Advisers will be asked to contribute periodically to our blog and DoveTales Online Journal, and help with the local promotion of Writing for Peace events, publications, and readings.

Please send resumes and letters of intent to editor@writingforpeace.org.

Keep the faith and keep on writing!

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Copyright © 2019 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

How to Become a Revolutionary Icon, By Lyla June Johnston

Young Diné women prepare for “Nihígaal Bee Iiná: Our Journey for Existence.” To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x. Photo Courtesy Colleen Cooley

Young Diné women prepare for “Nihígaal Bee Iiná: Our Journey for Existence.” The group will embark on a 200-mile trek through western New Mexico—a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the tragic “Long Walk.” To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x. Photo Courtesy Colleen Cooley.

How to Become a Revolutionary Icon

By Lyla June Johnston

1. Speak your truth aloud
2. Say it with love and humility
3. Ignore the thousands of people (including yourself) who will tell you that you’re unworthy of bringing this message
4. Repeat
I look at some of these young warriors like Nahko Bear, Ta’kaiya Blaney, Xiutezcatl Martinez, and others who are so sought after for their presence and their words. They are no different from anyone else. They are simply willing to stand up and speak light into the darkness, brazenly, at the risk of seeming overly idealistic or arrogant. This is not idealism, this is the truth that our child-selves saw so clearly but did not have space to express. This is not arrogance, this is the deliverance of nourishment to a world starving for truth. I was blessed to learn that I CAN speak in a society that expects and rewards silence.
I remember once at Stanford I came to my poetry collective with a poem that loudly professed my allegiance to unity and love. My entire team laughed at me and said they would not partake in the group performance I had sketched out. The tagline was, “WE WANT YOU FREE!” I guess it was too corny for them… But when I have the courage to say these things to the crowd something happens in their hearts. The rumbling of my voice, the clarity and conviction of the message, awakens dormant volcanos within them that have been waiting, silently, patiently, for years to erupt. Once I am finished they burst with applause and rise for the standing ovation. I know in my heart they are not cheering for me. They are cheering because, finally, the sleeping wolf has arisen within them. The wolf that sits in its conformist cage. The wolf that begs to howl this truth into the dark night with all its might but is not allowed to by societal norms. They are cheering for the Love that has triumphed, the Truth that has overcome all obstacles set before it. They are cheering for Creator, that Her message has finally been released, that it has finally breeched the walls Iktomi has built all around us. Walls meant to distract us from the ever-present, ever-shining, ever-true reality that we are free, we are love, we are loved and we hold the very breath of the Creator within our lungs and in our veins. This is the beauty our child-selves knew we were born for. This is the beauty we are all able to hold again. If we only have the courage, to step forward and… speak.

About Writing for Peace Young Adviser Lyla June Johnston

Lyla June Johnston, Writing fr Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a 24 year-old poet, musician, anthropologist and human being, from Taos, New Mexico. Her passion for peace unfolds both outside of herself through community organizing and within herself through continual prayers to forgive and love a wounded world. After studying Human Ecology at Stanford University, Lyla founded Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration and honoring of children and young adults worldwide. She plans on attending Harvard Business School to obtain the platform she needs to disarm the private sector and repurpose the capitalist infrastructure for healing and social change. Her ancestors are Diné and Cheyenne and it is from this ancestral worldview that she derives her visions for helping to create a culture of peace and generosity. Learn more about Lyla’s work here.


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Young Navajo Stage 200-Mile Trek for Cultural Survival

Young Diné women prepare for “Nihígaal Bee Iiná: Our Journey for Existence.” To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x. Photo Courtesy Colleen Cooley

(Photo Courtesy Colleen Cooley.)

By Writing for Peace Adviser, Lyla June Johnston

HUERFANO, New Mex.- At dawn on January 6th 2015 a group of young Diné (Navajo) women and their supporters will gather at a fire department near the base of Dził Na’oodiłii (Huerfano Mountain). From there the group will embark on a 200-mile trek through western New Mexico—a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the tragic “Long Walk.” Throughout this journey they intend to raise awareness about historical and present day challenges faced by Diné people and inspire hopeful solutions to address these issues.

Organizers are calling out for community support in the form of walking, hosting or helping to garner basic materials. This first journey will end at Tsoodził (Mount Taylor), their southern sacred mountain. Three more walks are scheduled for spring, summer and fall so that each of their four sacred mountains is visited. The walkers intend to cover over 1000 miles in 2015.

The commemorated event occurred in 1864 when Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson—under the command of General James Carleton—enforced a merciless, scorched earth policy to bring Diné people into submission. During this time nearly 9,000 Diné and 500 Mescalero Apache men, women, children and elderlies were marched at gunpoint for 300 miles to a small patch of arid land known as Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Many perished along the way.

During their four-year internment at this reservation “experiment”—known in Diné as Hwééldi or “the place of suffering”—hundreds died due to starvation, illness and physical violence. In 1868, high costs of rations and soldier commissions caused the federal government to disband the experiment and release them back to Diné Tah, the Navajo homeland.

“We are walking to honor the resiliency of our ancestors who 150 years ago were forced to march hundreds of miles in the dead of winter on a genocidal death march,” says Dana Eldridge, one of several female organizers of the walk. “They sacrificed and suffered so much so that we could live within these four sacred mountains. So we’re walking to honor them.”

According to the organizers, the walk is not simply a re-enactment of The Long Walk, but their return to a traditional lifestyle.

“It’s something that people don’t do anymore. We have the convenience of vehicles. But walking an entire journey is something that’s revolutionary in a way,” says young organizer Nick Ashley of Gallup, New Mexico.

“Our ancestors walked so that we could be here on our homeland singing, dancing and praying the songs they did. But now everyone is chasing the American Dream and neglecting our homeland, our language and way of life,” says Kimberly Smith of St. Michaels, Arizona.

Several Diné elders, including Larry W. Emerson, think present day problems might be due to “an abandonment of self.”

“One purpose of the walk might be for us to come back into ourselves via our traditional knowledge—into our homes, families, relations, communities and earth-sky knowing. Ké and k’é hwiindzin—to be conscious of our interdependent relationships based on compassion, love, and nurturing—are vital to our survival and we cannot come home to ourselves without these vital teachings. [We] offered several teachings [to the walkers] that might address the practice of coming home to ourselves, including some prayer songs.”

According to organizers, land-based prayer is an important part of their journey. “Everything we do is a prayer to return to our original selves,” says Laura Red Elk of Pueblo Pintado, New Mexico. “The mountains were our original naat’áanii [leaders] before IRA governments or the tribal council. Since our government is failing to protect us, we are returning to our original leadership by letting the mountains determine how we walk on the land.”

Organizers and their elders have chosen to name their movement as “Nihígaal Bee Iiná” or “Our Journey for Existence.” Due to the widespread presence of uranium, coal and gas extraction throughout Diné Tah,organizers feel that their environmental situation has reached a boiling point.

“One hundred and fifty years ago our ancestors stared their extinction in the face. And today, we young people are staring our extinction in the face. Our home will become an unlivable toxic wasteland if nothing is done,” says Eldridge.

According to the EPA, nearly 4 million tons of uranium have been extracted from Diné Tah since 1944. With over 500 abandoned uranium mines throughout the region, both homes and water sources are contaminated with high levels of radiation.

Additionally, over 20,000 tons of coal are strip-mined from Diné and Hopi lands every day by Peabody Coal Company alone. This coal feeds Navajo Generating Station, rated by the EPA as the highest emitter of toxic nitrous oxide in the country.

Organizers forecast that the next major threat is the onset of a boom in oil and natural gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing—a process now banned in the state of New York.

Erin Konsmo of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network in Alberta, Canada, says that resource extraction is not only a threat to the environment: “Some of the highest rates of missing and murdered women are in the tar-sands extraction areas. This is related to worker’s camps and the lack of jurisdictional protection for women on tribal lands.” Organizers state that the heavy presence of extractive industries is having a similar effect on Diné women.

“We give life and we nurture life just like the land does. Our traditional leadership structure is matrilineal because we are the spinal chord of society, the first teachers of the children. We are journeying back to our original selves including our responsibility as women to protect the land and take care of it,” says Red Elk.

“It’s all the more reason for this walk to be led by majority women. As traditional caretakers of the land, their physical presence is in and of itself a resistance to resource extraction,” comments Konsmo.

Weekly paychecks for Diné miners and generator operators are a constant reminder of their economic dependence on the fossil fuel industry. Walkers hope to raise awareness about self-sufficiency as an alternative to the extraction economy. They will disperse heirloom corn seeds to communities along the way and speak on the importance of food sovereignty and self-reliance.

“We are being told to invest in our own destruction in the name of the economy,” says Eldridge. “People say we need these jobs, but we don’t. To take care of ourselves it will take a tremendous amount of work, but it is a beautiful dream and it is so possible.”

Organizers are urging others to join them, especially Diné people, for all or part of the walk.

Smith encapsulates the spirit of the walk by saying, “We have to go back to where the wisdom is embedded. We have to reintroduce ourselves to those places. It is our inherent right and responsibility. The uplifting that our people need is there. We want to bring it back for our people, we want to honor our elders, our children and most importantly, we want to honor the earth.”

For more information on “Our Journey for Existence,” contact nihigaalbeeiina@gmail.com. To assist with the group’s crowdfunding campaign visit: http://igg.me/p/1055200/x

Enter the 2015 Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest 

Writing for Peace dreamerThe deadline is March 1st, so time to get serious about polishing your entry! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here. Teachers who would like to receive a free pdf version of our DoveTales journals to share with their students may request copies at editor@writingforpeace.org.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is currently accepting fiction, essays, poetry and art submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Deadline is January 15th. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Copyright © 2015 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.



Conscientious Objector’s View From The Ground In Israel, by Natan Blanc

A Conscientious Objector’s View From The Ground In Israel

by Natan Blanc

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserWhen I started writing this post, the Israeli government and the “Hamas” organization were on the verge of agreeing on a cease-fire, and ending the current cycle of violence. By now, the cease fire talks are ancient history. Hamas has rejected the cease-fire, and continued shooting missiles towards Israel,  Israel has retaliated, and we have very little hope for some peace and quiet in the near future.

This cycle of violence has been going on since I was a kid. Luckily for me, I live in the northern part of Israel, far away from the Gaza missiles. But ever since I was a kid, I keep hearing about Hamas’s attacks, Israel’s counter attacks, Hamas’s counter-counter attacks etc. I think I have heard more pompous prime-ministerial speeches about “stamping out the terror” in Gaza then I have heard speeches about the Israeli economy.

The most amazing thing about the endless war in Gaza is that almost nobody, on either side, seems to have any actual goals to achieve through it, except making the other side stop. A few people on the Israeli side talk about conquering Gaza, and a few people on the Palestinian side talk about conquering Israel, but nobody really takes them seriously.

The other amazing thing about this fight is that there is actually nothing to fight about. Unlike other conflicts that Israel has in other places (e.g. the west bank, the Syrian front), this specific conflict doesn’t include any territorial dispute, or any complicated issues. The hypothetical peace treaty in this issue could be written on a napkin. It will contain two sentences- “Israel agrees not to attack in Gaza, and remove the blockade on it. Hamas agrees not to engage in terror attacks towards the citizens of Israel.

Why, then, if everyone is so interested in peace and quiet, and if it is so easy to achieve, does this war continue? The answer to this question is complicated, but it comes down to two issues:

  1. The power of inertia- once the boulder of violence has started rolling, even after nothing is pushing it forward anymore, it will continue rolling, taking innocent lives with it. It will not stop until it has ruined enough lives, enough homes, enough families.
  2. The power of the extreme- the most frustrating thing about this conflict is to see how a handful of extremists can drag millions of people into a never-ending cycle of war, death and violence. One terrorist who fires a missile during a cease-fire, one Israeli soldier who beats up a Palestinian kid, a few 9-year old racists who write “death to the Arabs” on Facebook. These extremists can light a fire that is extremely hard to extinguish, despite the fact that 99% of the citizens on both sides oppose them.

So despite the stupidity and absurdity of this war, the continuation of this cycle, and the next war in a year or two, seems inevitable. If we don’t want to lose hope, we must try and remind ourselves all the time that this stupidity can’t last forever. That eventually, sooner or later, this conflict will end.

About Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young Adviser

Natan Blanc was born in Jerusalem, and moved to Haifa (a major city in Israel) when he was a kid. Haifa is a “mixed” city, with both Arabs and Jews, so he learned about co-existence and peace between people of different religions at an early age. During his teenage years, Natan took part in quite a few different peace activities and organizations. He was also part of a social-democrat youth movement called “hamahanot haolim.”

When Natan was 19, he was drafted (like any Israeli after high-school) to join the IDF (the Israeli army) as a combat soldier. He refused, saying he wouldn’t be part of such an army. Natan told the IDF representatives that serving in this army was against his conscience, because of its actions against the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserNatan was jailed repeatedly for his refusal. In total, he was sentenced 10 times, to a total of 178 days in jail. “Eventually,” said Natan, “the army tired of me.” He began an alternative civil service the September after his incarceration.

Natan’s struggle was first of all a struggle for the freedom of conscience, but it was also a struggle for peace between the Jews and the Arabs in Israel. “I hope that my actions, then and in the future, might help end this conflict that has been going on for more than 70 years.”

Natan currently serves in the MDA (the national rescue organization) as a medic (E.M.T.I) in an ambulance. He is also  involved in assisting and guiding potential conscientious military service objectors, as well as the forming and running of “Shelanoo” – a non-profit cooperative for socio-economical change.

To learn more about the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and what you can do, see Natan’s recommendations here.

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  • 2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition On Track for Release

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for Peace McNaughton & Gunn has completed the printing and we’ve received notice that the books have shipped. Contributors will be notified directly by email regarding their personal copies. Contributor pages will appear on the site later today. Official release date is July 30th, one week from today!

  • Website Changes

You may have noticed the blog posts scrolling in the right sidebar. We’ve updated the blog titles to include the author’s name so you can easily find posts from all our amazing advisers and guest writers.  This is the first of many exciting changes that will make Writing for Peace content more accessible. Watch for our 2014 DoveTales “Contrast” pages and a new header reflecting the beautiful black and white photography by our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

  • Facebook

Our Facebook page has taken on a new life! You’ll find inspiration there, about the craft of writing, peace, and the intersection of the two. Check it out, like and share. Help spread the word about Writing for Peace!

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.



Drop Your Weapons, by Chenoweth and Stephens

Drop Your Weapons; When and Why Civil Resistance Works

By Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephensswords-into-plowshares-frank-tozier

Over the past three years, the world has witnessed a surge of nonviolent resistance movements. Pictures of huge demonstrations in public squares have become a staple of international news broadcasts, and Time named “the protester” as its Person of the Year for 2011. These days, it seems that at any given moment, thousands of people are mobilizing for change somewhere in the world.

But these movements have varied widely in terms of their duration, their success, their ability to remain nonviolent, and their cost in terms of human life. Building on years of intermittent protests and strikes, Tunisians toppled Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the dictator who had ruled their country for 23 years, after a sustained period of 28 days of protests beginning in December 2010. Between 300 and 320 Tunisians civilians died in the upheaval, all of them killed by police or security forces. Weeks later, Egyptians ended Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade reign after a decade of lower-level opposition and civil resistance culminated in 18 days of nonviolent mass demonstrations — but Mubarak’s security forces killed around 900 people in the process. In Libya, scattered protests against Muammar al-Qaddafi that began in February 2011 quickly became an armed rebellion. NATO soon intervened militarily, and within nine months, Qaddafi was dead and his regime demolished, but between 10,000 and 30,000 Libyans, according to various estimates, had lost their lives. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad brutally cracked down on mostly nonviolent demonstrations against his rule between March and August 2011, killing thousands and setting in motion a civil war that has since resulted in over 150,000 deaths and the displacement of around nine million people. Most recently, in February, Ukrainians ousted President Viktor Yanukovych after three months of mass civil resistance and occasionally violent protests. Around 100 Ukrainian protesters died during the clashes between demonstrators and riot police — fewer than in most of the confrontations of the Arab Spring in 2011. But Russia’s response to Yanukovych’s overthrow — seizing the Ukrainian territory of Crimea and attempting to destabilize the eastern parts of Ukraine — has created the most dangerous and unpredictable security situation Europe has seen in decades.

The basic trajectory of these recent movements — each successive one seemingly more violent and more geopolitically charged — has encouraged skepticism about the prospects for civil resistance in the twenty-first century. Such doubts are understandable but misplaced. A longer view is required to see the real potential of nonviolent resistance, which is evident in a historical data set that we assembled of 323 campaigns that spanned the twentieth century — from Mahatma Gandhi’s Indian independence movement against British colonialism, which began in earnest in 1919, to the protests that removed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from power in 2006. This global data set covers all known nonviolent and violent campaigns (each featuring at least 1,000 observed participants) for self-determination, the removal of an incumbent leader, or the expulsion of a foreign military occupation from 1900 to 2006. The data set was assembled using thousands of source materials on protest and civil disobedience, expert reports and surveys, and existing records on violent insurgencies.

Between 1900 and 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance against authoritarian regimes were twice as likely to succeed as violent movements. Nonviolent resistance also increased the chances that the overthrow of a dictatorship would lead to peace and democratic rule. This was true even in highly authoritarian and repressive countries, where one might expect nonviolent resistance to fail. Contrary to conventional wisdom, no social, economic, or political structures have systematically prevented nonviolent campaigns from emerging or succeeding. From strikes and protests to sit-ins and boycotts, civil resistance remains the best strategy for social and political change in the face of oppression. Movements that opt for violence often unleash terrible destruction and bloodshed, in both the short and the long term, usually without realizing the goals they set out to achieve. Even though tumult and fear persist today from Cairo to Kiev, there are still many reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the promise of civil resistance in the years to come.

Nonviolent campaigns against authoritarian regimes are twice as likely to succeed as violent ones.

In the United States and Europe, policymakers often seem at a loss when confronted with the questions of whether to support civilians resisting authoritarian regimes using nonviolent protest and, if so, what form that support should take. Liberal interventionists cited a “responsibility to protect” civilians to justify NATO’s intervention in Libya and have also invoked that argument in advocating for similar action in Syria. But the promise of civil resistance suggests an alternative: a “responsibility to assist” nonviolent activists and civic groups well before confrontations between civilians and authoritarian regimes devolve into violent conflicts.


Civil resistance does not succeed because it melts the hearts of dictators and secret police. It succeeds because it is more likely than armed struggle to attract a larger and more diverse base of participants and impose unsustainable costs on a regime. No single civil resistance campaign is the same, but the ones that work all have three things in common: they enjoy mass participation, they produce regime defections, and they employ flexible tactics. Historically, the larger and more diverse the campaign, the more likely it was to succeed. Large campaigns have a greater chance of seriously disrupting the status quo, raising the costs of government repression, and provoking defections among a regime’s pillars of support. When large numbers of people engage in acts of civil disobedience and disruption, shifting between concentrated methods such as protests and dispersed methods such as consumer boycotts and strikes, even the most brutal opponent has difficulty cracking down and sustaining the repression indefinitely. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s last shah, had little difficulty neutralizing the Islamist and Marxist-inspired guerilla groups that challenged his rule in the 1960s and early 1970s. But when large numbers of oil workers, bazaar merchants, and students engaged in acts of collective nonviolent resistance, including work stoppages, boycotts, and protests, the regime’s repressive apparatus became overstretched and the economy tanked. From there, it didn’t take long for the shah to flee the country.

Broad-based support for a resistance movement can also weaken the loyalty of economic elites, religious authorities, and members of the state media who support the regime. When such figures defect to the opposition, they can sometimes force the regime to surrender to the opposition’s demands, which is what happened with the Philippines’ People Power movement of 1983–86. Broad movements also enjoy a tactical advantage: diverse, nonviolent campaigns that include women, professionals, religious figures, and civil servants — as opposed to violent ones comprised of mostly young, able-bodied men trained to become militants — reduce the risk of violent crackdowns, since security forces are often reluctant to use violence against crowds that might include their neighbors or relatives. And even when governments have chosen to violently repress resistance movements, in all the cases under review, nonviolent campaigns still succeeded in achieving their goals almost half the time, whereas only 20 percent of violent movements achieved their goals, because the vast majority were unable to produce the mass support or defections necessary to win. In cases in which the security forces remain loyal to the regime, defections among economic elites can play a critical role. In South Africa, boycotts against white businesses and international divestments from South African businesses were decisive in ending the apartheid regime.

But civil resistance requires more than just mass participation and defections; it also requires planning and coordinated tactics. Successful nonviolent campaigns are rarely spontaneous, and the seemingly rapid collapse of the Ben Ali and Mubarak regimes shouldn’t fool observers: both revolutions were rooted in labor and opposition movements going back nearly a decade. Indeed, between 1900 and 2006, the average nonviolent campaign lasted close to three years. As Robert Helvey, a retired U.S. Army colonel who organized civil resistance workshops in Myanmar (also called Burma), the Palestinian territories, and Serbia in the 1990s and the early years of this century, told activists during his workshops: if they wanted their campaign to succeed in one year, they should plan as if the struggle would last for two.

During the 1980s in the United States, Helvey worked closely with the scholar Gene Sharp, who has identified 198 different tactics that nonviolent resistance movements employ. These include various methods of protest, persuasion, noncooperation, and what Sharp calls “nonviolent intervention” — all of which have worked in various contexts. Tech-savvy scholars, such as Patrick Meier and Mary Joyce, have updated Sharp’s list to include tactics linked to new technologies, such as using social media to report repressive actions in real time and even using small drones to monitor police movements.

Even campaigns that possess the holy trinity of features — mass participation, regime defections, and flexible tactics — don’t always succeed. Much depends on whether state authorities can outmaneuver the protesters and sow division in their ranks, perhaps even provoking nonviolent resisters to abandon their protests and strikes, lose their discipline and unity, and take up arms in response to repression. But even when nonviolent campaigns fail, all is not lost: from 1900 to 2006, countries that experienced failed nonviolent movements were still about four times as likely to ultimately transition to democracy as countries where resistance movements resorted to violence at the outset. Nonviolent civic mobilization relies on flexibility and coalition building — the very things that are needed for democratization.

Of course, nonviolent revolutionaries are not necessarily equipped to govern during a political transition. In Egypt, for example, the young secular activists who filled Tahrir Square in January and February of 2011 have failed to organize effective political parties or interest groups. Nonviolent mass uprisings cannot always resolve systemic governance problems, such as co-opted institutions, entrenched corruption, and a lack of power sharing between a regime’s military or security forces and the civilian bureaucracy.

But revolutionary campaigns can still maximize their chances of achieving more representative government — of bringing the successes of the street into the halls of power — if they develop so-called parallel institutions during the course of their struggles. Poland offers one of the best examples. In 1980, after some 16,000 workers launched a strike at the Gdansk shipyard, Polish labor groups, which had already been fomenting resistance to the Soviet-backed communist regime in Poland for a decade, formed Solidarity, a trade union that morphed into a civil resistance movement and gradually eroded the communist authority’s grip on the country. Solidarity published underground dissident newspapers, organized demonstrations and radical theater performances in churches, and resisted years of repression, including the imposition of martial law in 1981. Eventually, ten million Poles joined the group, which operated as a kind of shadow government, facilitating its ability to step into a leadership role as communism crumbled. In 1988, Solidarity organized a series of strikes that led to direct negotiations with the regime, which resulted in semi-free elections in 1989. When Poland emerged from communist rule a year later, it did so with a new set of electoral rules and practices, many of them shepherded by Solidarity through a series of negotiations, which allowed for a much more durable and confident turn toward democracy. Although problems remained, Polish civil society was fully capable of holding its new leaders to account — including Solidarity’s Lech Walesa, who was elected president in 1990.


Rather than illustrate the limits of nonviolent resistance, Syria shows how devastating the choice of violence can be.

At first glance, recent events such as the struggle to consolidate democratic gains in Tunisia, the counterrevolution in Egypt, the chaotic state of affairs in post-Qaddafi Libya, the seemingly intractable civil war in Syria, and the instability of Ukraine in the wake of the revolution in Kiev appear to provide little evidence for the promise of nonviolent resistance. But a closer look at these five cases actually reinforces why people power is still the most effective method of political change, even in highly repressive countries.

Despite setbacks last year, including the assassinations of two prominent liberal politicians by Islamist militants, Tunisia still looks like the bright spot among all the countries shaken up by the Arab Spring. Indeed, Tunisia’s revolution most closely resembles earlier examples where civil resistance succeeded, such as the Philippines and Poland. The country stands a good chance of completing a full transition to democracy within the next five years. This positive trajectory is in large part a product of how Tunisians organized against Ben Ali. Massive numbers of Tunisians participated in a sustained series of public protests, and the demonstrations included a diverse set of citizens: women helped lead them, and members of labor unions marched alongside lawyers, professors, and students. When it came to tactics, the protesters mostly improvised, but they also relied on a wide range of techniques, alternating between demonstrations and crippling national strikes organized by labor unions. The regime’s repressive countermeasures, such as lethal security crackdowns, backfired, drawing more people into the streets and encouraging defections from the military and among regime loyalists. After the Islamist party Ennahda swept the first post–Ben Ali elections, in 2011, power struggles between the Islamists and their secular rivals, amid flare-ups of protests and political violence, eventually yielded to compromise and a power-sharing deal late last year. The country’s trade unions, notably, played a key role in brokering that deal.

Egypt’s telegenic uprising, like Tunisia’s, illustrated the potential of nonviolent resistance. Protesters employed a wide range of tactics, from occupying major public squares to organizing large labor strikes. Activists found allies in the Egyptian army, which refused to open fire on the crowds and abandoned Mubarak, leading to a victory for civil resistance in 2011. But it soon became clear that the popular refrain “The army and the people are one hand” was a hollow slogan: the Egyptian military (unlike its Tunisian counterpart) intended to hold on to power at all costs. Last year, after the army toppled the democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, the military-backed government turned on the same activists who had organized the first protests against Mubarak in Tahrir Square, throwing many of them in jail. With the military’s power firmly intact — and its former chief, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, expected to win a presidential election in late May — Egypt provides ample proof that a successful nonviolent campaign that manages to oust an authoritarian ruler cannot necessarily guarantee greater freedom and stability in the period that follows.

Nevertheless, had the Tahrir Square protests turned violent, the situation in Egypt might well have been far worse than it is today. Armed uprisings tend to reinforce the power of the military even more quickly, discouraging defections. Moreover, they tend to initiate mass atrocities against civilians on a scale much larger than nonviolent action does. Armed revolts rarely succeed, and when they do, they almost never bring about greater stability.

When thousands of Ukrainians mobilized in late 2013, calling for Yanukovych to resign, it appeared to be a vindication for the promise of popular nonviolent resistance. Although most of the international media focused on Kiev as the hub of the protests, people actually rose up in many cities and towns across the country. As in Tunisia and Egypt, the resistance made use of a variety of tactics. People boycotted consumer goods from businesses linked to Yanukovych; in Kiev, a mass car pool ensured that protesters could move in and out of the city’s main square. The demonstrators also exhibited a high degree of commitment to the cause: in one instance, civilians lay down across railroad tracks outside the city of Dnipropetrovsk to prevent a train carrying 500 elite riot police from entering Kiev. The movement was diverse, including men and women from different political groupings, classes, and ages. Its inclusiveness encouraged regime officials and security forces to switch sides in cities and throughout the countryside.

Of course, soon after Yanukovych fled Ukraine, in late February, the victory of civil resistance was undermined by geopolitics, as Russia reacted to the pro-European momentum in Kiev by seizing Crimea and fomenting instability in eastern Ukraine. But none of that changes the fact that it was mostly nonviolent popular protests, and not armed revolution, that brought down Yanukovych.


Libya does not fit neatly into this group of countries in which nonviolent resistance led to political change; after all, Qaddafi was toppled by an armed movement with NATO support. But Libya is revealing because it demonstrates the pitfalls of ignoring the strategic possibilities of civil resistance. Libya never saw a coordinated civil resistance campaign; instead, the revolutionaries and regime defectors turned from disorganized mass protests, such as those that rocked Benghazi in February 2011, to violence in the uprising’s first days, killing security forces, torching police stations and security offices across the country, and mobilizing an armed rebellion. Despite their early tactical victories, moreover, the rebel forces were badly outnumbered by Qaddafi loyalists and might have suffered a catastrophic loss without NATO’s help, making them wholly reliant on the international community for their victory. The death toll from the Libyan civil war, furthermore, was far higher than those in Tunisia, Egypt, and other cases in which activists relied on nonviolent means alone. After all, it was the armed revolt that provoked Qaddafi’s famed speech in late February 2011, in which he promised to go “door to door” and “capture the rats” who had betrayed him. And Libya today looks ominously like past cases in which armed rebel groups have toppled authoritarian regimes: dozens of militias roam free, and the feeble central government teeters on the brink of collapse. Relatively free elections in 2011 have not ushered in effective governing institutions. In the end, violent resistance succeeded against Qaddafi — but it came at a high price. Although it is impossible to know whether nonviolent action could have succeeded, the spontaneous protests of February 2011 that provoked mass defections from Qaddafi’s security forces after just two days indicate that it may not have been fruitless to try.

Although more organized than Libya’s, Syria’s initially nonviolent resistance struggled owing to a lack of sufficient participation and a coherent plan. Activists failed to coordinate protests across the country in a way that could have mitigated government repression and inspired more defections among both the security forces and economic elites. Most of the opposition’s early tactics against the Assad regime were isolated and improvised: sporadic protests after Friday prayers at a mosque or flash mobs in popular markets. Decades of living under a brutal police state, where neighbors spied on neighbors at the behest of one of the many security branches, discouraged trust among the protesters and undermined collective action. Yet during the nonviolent phase of the uprising, some members of the Syrian security forces still defected to the opposition, and the movement featured moderate levels of domestic support.

But taking up arms against the Assad regime’s inevitable brutality destroyed any chance of maintaining the open support for the Syrian opposition on the part of significant numbers of Alawites, Christians, and Druze — minorities who were represented among the nonviolent movement and were crucial to any inclusive, successful civil resistance. The subsequent civil war has alienated many former participants in and supporters of the revolution, and in many ways, it has fortified the regime. And the costs have been enormous. From March to September 2011, when the uprising was mostly nonviolent, the Assad regime killed an estimated 1,000 people a month and reportedly arrested thousands more. But the ensuing civil war has claimed around 5,000 lives a month, and one-third of the Syrian population are now refugees.

If the Syrian case follows historical precedent, the rebels’ future looks gloomy. Even with support from outside states, violent campaigns from 1900 to 2006 had less than a 30 percent chance of succeeding. The successes include dubious cases, such as the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1975 and the mujahideen of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The failures include the Shiite uprising against Saddam Hussein in Iraq in the early 1990s, after the Gulf War. And as bad as the situation in Syria is, it could get worse. Since 1900, the average civil war has lasted over nine years. Even if the rebels win in the end, their victory will likely not satisfy the opposition’s original hope for more freedom. Less than four percent of rebel victories in armed resistance struggles from 1900 to 2006 ushered in democracy within five years; nearly half relapsed into civil war within ten years.

The odds were probably against any opposition campaign in Syria, nonviolent or violent, given the brutality of the regime. But as counterintuitive as it might seem, civil resistance was working in Syria and would have had a greater chance of success than armed struggle. Indeed, rather than illustrate the limits of nonviolent resistance, Syria’s path shows how devastating the choice of violence can be. It has played to Assad’s strengths while making the opposition wholly reliant on external armed intervention. Although entirely understandable given the scale of repression, engaging Assad on his own violent terms has had tragic — yet predictable — consequences.


Comparing these cases brings out a few key points. First, nonviolent campaigns attracted far more diverse participation than armed ones, which increased the chances of defections among security forces and other regime elites. There is, in fact, safety in numbers, especially when protesters represent a cross section of society. Second, the nonviolent campaigns that succeeded used a variety of tactics. In Syria, on the other hand, nonviolent activists tended to rely solely on demonstrations and occupations, which are among the riskiest methods of civil resistance. Attempted strikes, boycotts, and other forms of mass noncooperation were weak, localized, and lacked support.

Third, although the protests of the Arab Spring inspired one another and were united by a similar, iconic slogan that was first chanted in Tunisia — “The people want the fall of the regime!” — they were hardly all the same. In fact, the different outcomes in each country underscore why nonviolent groups must resist the temptation to replicate a mass demonstration in another country without a broader strategy of their own, especially when that mass demonstration represents the endgame of a much longer nonviolent campaign. Fourth, in addition to killing more unarmed civilians and undermining participation, armed resistance makes rebel groups dangerously dependent on outside support. In both Libya and Syria, that total reliance made the rebels more vulnerable to accusations that they were agents of foreign enemies. Moreover, international support for armed groups is usually conditional and fickle, subjecting rebel groups to the whims of their sponsors (as Washington’s reluctance to follow through on its pledges of significant help for the Syrian rebels shows).

During last year’s UN General Assembly meeting, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to a roundtable about the essential role that civil society has played in nearly every major social and political transformation of the last half century, from the civil rights movement in the United States, to the fight against communism in Eastern Europe, to the antiapartheid struggle in South Africa. The right of peaceful assembly and association, Obama said, is “not a Western value; this is a universal right.” But the space for this right is shrinking in many parts of the world. Countries are passing laws to stifle civil society, restrict nongovernmental organizations’ access to foreign funding, crack down on communications technology, and, in more extreme cases, arrest and harass journalists and activists. Obama called on governments to embrace civil society groups as partners and, in a slightly edgier appeal, pressed governments and nongovernmental organizations to come up with more innovative and effective ways to support groups and activists fighting against injustice and oppression.

But that raises the question of which forms of external assistance to nonviolent civic groups work and which ones don’t. The idea of “do no harm” remains an anchoring principle for how outside governments and institutions should promote democracy and aid civil society groups in other countries. International support to such movements can take many forms, such as monitoring trials of political prisoners, engaging in solidarity movements to support the right of peaceful assembly, providing alternative channels of news and information, targeting warnings to security officials who might be tempted to use lethal force against nonviolent protesters, and supporting general capacity building for civic groups and independent media. But local actors are in the best position to determine which type of support is appropriate and if it is worth the associated risks.

Strengthening civil society is not only a precondition for sustained democratic development. It can also protect civilians from the worst excesses of violent repression. Although regimes may not refrain from using violence against peaceful protesters, history suggests that helping civic groups maintain nonviolent discipline — a practice that often requires coordination, preparation, and training — can ultimately minimize civilian casualties. In addition to staving off armed rebellion, sticking to civil resistance can insulate protesters from the most extreme forms of state violence by raising the costs of repression (although as Tunisia and Egypt proved, hundreds of protesters could still pay with their lives). Nonviolent movements are not as reliant on outside support as armed ones are, but the international community can help ensure that civil society groups maintain the space they need to exercise their basic rights of free speech and assembly while avoiding the temptation to turn to arms to pursue their goals.

Policymakers should prioritize a “responsibility to assist” nonviolent activists and civic groups, rather than only seeking to protect civilians through military force, as in NATO’s Libya intervention. Of course, civil resistance campaigns are and must remain homegrown movements. But in recent years, the international community has done much to undermine civil resistance by quickly and enthusiastically supporting armed actors when they arrive on the scene. Syria’s tragedy is a case in point. Although regime repression, supported by Iran and Russia, undoubtedly helped turn a principally nonviolent uprising into a civil war, external actors could have done more to aid civil resistance and prolong the original nonviolent uprising. They could have helped encourage, coordinate, and exploit for political gain regime defections (including from key Alawite elites); demanded that Assad allow foreign journalists to remain in the country; accelerated direct financial support to grass-roots nonviolent networks and local councils; and provided more information to Syrian activists about what it takes to remain nonviolent under highly repressive conditions. Instead, the international community provided political recognition and sanctuary to armed actors, supplied both nonlethal and lethal aid to them, and helped militarize the conflict, undermining the momentum of the nonviolent movement. There was no silver bullet for effectively aiding the nonviolent Syrian opposition. But speed and coordination on the part of external actors, particularly early on in the revolution, were lacking.

Syria highlights the moral and strategic imperative of developing more flexible, nimble ways to support nonviolent resistance movements. The local champions of people power will continue to chart their own future. But outside actors have an important role to play in assuring that civil resistance has a fighting chance.

Printed first in the July, August 2014 Issue of Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, and reprinted by permission of Writing for Peace Adviser Erica Chenoweth.

Erica Chenoweth smallErica Chenoweth, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and an Associate Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO). An internationally recognized authority on political violence and its alternatives, Foreign Policy magazine ranked her among the Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2013 for her efforts to promote the empirical study of civil resistance. Chenoweth received the 2014 Karl Deutsch Award, which the International Studies Association gives annually to the scholar under the age of 40 who has made the greatest impact on the field of international politics or peace research. Learn more about Chenoweth and her work here.

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  • Release Date Set for 2014 DoveTales

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Contrast” edition is set to release on July 30th. With the change in printer, our primary concern was to maintain the quality our young writers and contributors have rightly come to expect. With that in mind, the book will be published by McNaughton & Gunn, Inc., a printer recommended by Writing for Peace Adviser Richard Krawiec.

Watch the website for contributor information and new art reflecting the book’s beautiful black and white photography by our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.


Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

My Mother’s Funeral, A Review by Robert Kostuck

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserMY MOTHER’S FUNERAL

by Adriana Páramo

CavanKerry Press, 2013, 258 pp., $21.00, ISBN 1-933880-39-2

A Review, by Robert Kostuck

In My Mother’s Funeral, Adriana Páramo slips between her mother Carmen’s life before children, her own childhood memories, and the present—wake, funeral, cremation. Woven into these personal experiences is an omnipresent Columbia: the open spaces of Mariquita, the squalid poverty of Medellín and Bogotá, rival drug gangs, politics, Catholicism, the Communist Party revisited.

Objectivity is difficult to achieve in a book-length essay; Ms. Páramo, however, succeeds admirably—she gently and firmly pieces together the tapestry of the mother and daughter relationship; readers will find common themes presented in even-handed and sometimes startling prose. Her writing is educational without being didactic; emotional without being sentimental.

Politics in Colombia were harsh in the 1950s. Her rarely-seen father, ‘Mr. B’, a cachiporro (liberal), seduces the innocent Carmen, and after the wedding rushes her away from her home—a few hours ahead of the godos (conservatives). First night together is spent in a whorehouse; for the remainder of the marriage Mr. B comes and goes as he pleases, impregnating Carmen and then vanishing for months or years at a time. At one point her sister Dalila acquires a partially-decomposed adult male human skeleton—courtesy of a ‘snatcher’, recommended by the nuns—and together sister and mother boil and clean the bones. Assembled, Dalila receives her coveted A+ in anatomy and the unnamed skeleton literally hangs around the house, a possible replacement for the missing Mr. B.

The baby of the family, Adriana curls up with her mother in the kitchen or in bed, listening to the stories of the world filtered through a tabletop radio: sports, agony aunties, soap operas, tangos, boleros; Carmen singing along with the radio, Adriana, watching her mother “morph into a woman”.

“Tal vez mañana puedas comprender / Que siempre fui sincera / Tal vez por alguien llegues a saber / Que todavia te quiero. Maybe later you might understand / That I was always sincere / Perhaps someone will help you see / That I still love you.”

Childhood for Adriana, is a combination of head-long curiosity and goofy naiveté. Carmen, and to a lesser extent, her sisters, guide and guard the young Adriana. Memory is selective; what Adriana shows us is how this mother shapes her daughters: strict, efficient, economical—she maintains a poor but tidy home and life for her children. Lessons by word or example are rarely repeated; they become the very fibers of her daughter’s body and personality. Toward the end of the memoir, Adriana writes,

“Our financial situation started to improve when we moved to Medellín, and Dalila, Amanda, and Ligia got secretarial jobs that required them to wear nylons, high heels, and modest suits. Eventually they began going back to school at night, but they never stopped working, never stopped rescuing Mom and their two younger sisters from the constant panic of uncertainty. I owe everything I am to the women in my family—to my sisters and Mom. Nobody else.”

This is the heart of the memoir: what a daughter learns from her mother: how to be a girl, how to become a woman; and when that mother begins to fade from autumn into winter, how to become her mother. When Carmen, beset by Alzheimer’s, visits Adriana the wife and mother at her new home in Alaska, she relates a story about her pregnancy with Adriana so at odds with the life lessons she’d imparted over the years that her daughter feels an urge to “. . . jump into the lake and sink slowly into its frigid waters.” The fantastic and heartbreaking revelation adds another thin, sharp layer to this complex mother and daughter relationship.

Returning to Colombia in torn jeans and a gypsy blouse, Adriana arrives at the wake, faces somber and seemingly more mature sisters and a brother. Funerals are holidays for the dead, a time when far-flung family reunite and wonder aloud what went right and what went wrong. Her sisters and brother are emotional but methodical—Adriana feels like the only one with an incomparable loss—the woman who as a child promised her mother that she would always remain her little girl. A few days stretches into a painful eternity, and when the siblings return home to divide Carmen’s possessions, Adriana is nostalgic, then practical:

“I imagine landing in Miami, trying to make it through customs with a fern, a plastic chair, a flyswatter, a river stone, and a broom, and I have to laugh at my childishness. I discard my mental list. Instead I take a pair of earrings that belonged to my grandmother, (. . .) a photo of the six women—my four sisters, Mom, and me—that my brother took the day I left Colombia; the locket with a photo of my daughter that Mom wore around her neck like an amulet. I also seize the printout of Mom’s last EKG, taken two days ago.

“(. . .) I don’t know this yet but in six years I will look at this EKG and realize that the ink is fading away and with it the only existing traces of Mom’s heartbeat. I’ll have it tattooed around my left bicep, much to my family’s dismay, so that her heartbeat and mine will always be together.”

My Mother’s Funeral is the literal translation of that EKG tattoo, spanning decades, continents, and lives; a heartbeat that remains long after we scan the final page and move on into the days to come.

Robert Kostuck, Writing For Peace Guest WriterRobert Kostuck graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Masters in Education. His published work appears in the Kenyon Review, Concho River Review, Zone 3, Tiferet: Literature, Art, and the Creative Spirit, Silk Road, and others.

Writing for Peace News

Onward Into 2014!

Last year brought growth and many exciting firsts for Writing For Peace. Here’s a brief overview of 2013:

In 2013 our Advisers continued to demonstrate a commitment to peace and the power of writing through their work, their inspirational blog posts, brilliant ideas such as Mary Carroll-Hackett’s educational Facebook page for young writers, MCH-What’s Going On? and Pilar Rodriguez Aranda’s efforts to reach Spanish speaking young writers by translating our 2014 contest guidelines. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Sam Hamill‘s new and revised translated collection of Chinese poetry, Crossing the Yellow River is being published by Tiger’s Bark Press. His Selected Poems (not yet titled) will be published by Lost Horse Press in September 2014.
  • Lorraine Currelley was selected as an Artist-in-Residence for the 2014 Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) and as a new member of the Pearls of Wisdom Storytellers. Her Poets Network & Exchange will publish their first poetry anthology in 2014.
  • Veronica Golos is working on a new book, Root Work: The Lost Writings of John Brown and Mary Day Brown. “Of course John Brown was a great abolitionist and so was his wife, Mary and she also had 13 children. I have Ghost Code poems and Runaway poems also in the book. This is a way to make history live again, to get inside it so to speak.”
  • Richard Krawiec supports a community of writers and activists through education and his ever expanding Jacar Press.
  •  Maija Rhee Devine spoke with young people in South Korea and the United States about her award-winning books, The Voices of Heaven and Long Walks on Short Days, her experiences as a young girl during the Korean War, and her work with Korean Comfort Women.
  • Dr. Margaret Flowers continues her peace and healthcare activism. She currently serves as Secretary of Health on the Green Shadow Cabinet. Her recent article, Major Social Transformation Is a Lot Closer Than You May Realize — How Do We Finish the Job?, is also co-written with Kevin Zeese, and published on AlterNet.
  • Adriana Paramo‘s new memoir, My Mother’s Funeral, explores the volatile relationship with her mother, and their love that defies cultural forces, Bogotá street violence, and Medellin drug lords.

This is just a sampling of the wonderful work all our advisers do. Please watch our blog for their posts, follow their work, and support the poets and authors whose writings and activism encourage a more thoughtful and peaceful world.

In 2014, we look forward to hearing from Board Member Andrea W. Doray, who recently returned from Nepal, and to continued growth – including the occasional review on our blog! On this first day of the New Year, we welcome guest writer, Robert Kostuck, who reviews Adriana Paramo’s memoir, My Mother’s Funeral.

Happy New Year, Writers for Peace! And thank you for your ongoing support!


Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.







Militarism and Violence are So Yesterday, by Flowers & Zeese

By Writing for Peace Adviser Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese

Last week, in our article titled “Armed Drones Becoming the Norm? At the Crossroads of Robotic Warfare,” we wrote about concerns that robotic warfare combined with the global “war on terror” was making violence the quick and easy way to respond to conflicts. We wondered whether the bloody 20th (and beginning of the 21st) century could be put behind us and if the time had come to move to an era of peaceful solutions.

Many factors make this an opportune time to move toward greater use of nonviolent practices. The most obvious, of course, is that the United States and the planet can no longer support American Empire and its endless wars. We cannot continue to spend more than $1 trillion each year on the military and national security state while the basic needs of our population are not being met and our domestic infrastructure is crumbling. The empire economy quite literally is killing us.

And our bloated military is not just killing us and others around the world, mostly innocent civilians, but it is killing the Earth, too. This report published by Project Censored calls the US Department of Defense the worst polluter on the planet. It states: “This impact includes uninhibited use of fossil fuels, massive creation of greenhouse gases, and extensive release of radioactive and chemical contaminants into the air, water, and soil.” And that does not include the private military contractors and weapons industries.

The era of American Empire is coming to an end. The signs are everywhere. Latin-American countries are no longer tolerating bullying tactics by the United States. Obama failed in his attempt to attack Syria. The world leaders at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in October did not seem to mourn President Obama’s absence at all. In fact, the failing Trans-Pacific Partnership shows that the United States is no longer in the driver’s seat of the Pacific economy. And even former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski is lamenting “that American domination [is] no longer possible because of an accelerating social change. … ”

Brzezinski is concerned that growing access to information and popular uprisings are making it more difficult for the global financial elite to control the masses. All around the world, people are standing up to oppressive governments and destructive practices, and they are increasingly doing so with nonviolent tools. The newest data show that nonviolent tactics are not only more popular, but they are also more effective than violent ones and nonviolent struggle is more likely to result in lasting democratic structures.

In the book Crises of the Republic, Hannah Arendt wrote, “The chief reason warfare is still with us is neither a secret death wish of the human species, nor an irrepressible instinct of aggression … but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene.” That is changing. People around the world are putting nonviolent practices to use to create democratic societies and are employing peaceful methods of conflict resolution. It is imperative that we reject imperialism and militarism and make peace a reality.

Creating a Culture of Nonviolence        

We live in a time of transition that some call the Great Turning. Joanna Macy calls it the “essential adventure of our time: the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.” The reality is that our resources are declining and we can no longer operate within a system that demands constant growth and sacrifices people and the planet for profit as capitalism does.

The Great Turning is a period of maturation of our species. Biologist Elisabet Sahtouris writes in Earthdance: Living Systems in Evolution that evolution is not linear but is a cycle “of unity to individuation, through which arises conflict, negotiations happen, cooperation is arrived at; and we go to unity again at the next higher level.” If cooperation is not achieved, the species simply goes extinct.

She compares this process to the stages of human development. Essentially, humans are in the adolescent phase. Our task at this stage is cooperation, or as David Korten writes, to go from “violent domination” to “peaceful partnership.” To accomplish this, we will have to shift from a militaristic society to a culture of nonviolence. This will have to be done with intention.

If we look around us, it is easy to recognize the ways that militarism is ingrained in our culture. It is prominent in the games that our children play, especially video games, in television and movies and in the clothes they wear. Children as young as 12 years can attend residential programs that simulate basic military training. Members of the military are treated as heroes everywhere we go. At the airport, they are invited to board the plane first and walk across the red carpet as the “premier” members do. At sporting and cultural events, they are given special recognition.

To counter this deep indoctrination, we will have to be more honest about the role of the military. General Smedley D. Butler, one of the most decorated generals of all time, called war a racket. He said. “I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to major-general. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for Big Business for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

We will need to develop new cultural entities, practices and institutions that teach and promote peace and nonviolent practices. We will need to recognize people who contribute to building a more just society as the ones we want to emulate. In addition to the usual people that we think of such as teachers and nurses, we will need to include those who feed the hungry in areas where it has been declared illegal, who stand in solidarity with homeowners who are facing eviction and who lock themselves to heavy machinery to prevent mountaintop removal for coal, pipelines for tar sands and hydrofracking for methane gas.

Recently, we spoke to three people who are actively engaged in building the culture of nonviolence: author-activist-actor Rivera Sun and Stephanie Van Hook and Michael Nagler of the Metta Center for Nonviolence. Sun uses fictional characters to teach the principles of nonviolent resistance. In her newest book, called The Dandelion Insurrection, she uses “fiction to project ahead just around the corner of today” and tell the story of “the transformation we are going through.” The Metta Center provides tools, books and educational events to teach nonviolence.

All three incorporate stories into their work. Storytelling is an integral part of transformative organizing. We all see the world through the lens of the stories we tell ourselves. Stories are so important to us that when people are presented with facts that conflict with their story of the world, they are more likely to reject the facts and insist more strongly that their story is the truth. Our decisions are largely made at the emotional level, and so stories that reach our emotions can begin to shape our worldview in a new way.

Sun studies strategic nonviolence and nonviolent struggles. She incorporates important concepts and themes into her stories. She breaks the concepts down in a way that is easy to understand and remember. For instance, in The Dandelion Insurrection, the phrase “Be kind, be connected, be unafraid” is repeated throughout the story. To hear our interview with Rivera Sun, click here.

The Metta Center provides a movement tool called the Roadmap Compass. It serves the goals of providing a strategy in a way that is also easy to comprehend and shows how the different components of the movement are connected. The top one of the six sections of the Roadmap is “New Story Creation.” Nagler says that if we “formulate the story in a way that is non-threatening” and we each start telling the story in a similar way, then we will reach a tipping point. The Roadmap Compass is an interactive tool that facilitates communication between people who are working on specific areas such as food security, renewable energy or nonviolent conflict resolution.

Practicing Nonviolence

As we learn the principles of nonviolence, we can start putting them into action in our daily lives. Van Hook reminds us that it is as easy as slowing down enough to make some connection to the people we encounter such as when we go to a store. She adds that we can employ nonviolent tactics when a conflict arises. The first step is to recognize the humanity of the other person by making eye contact.

Van Hook coordinates the Shanti Sena Network of peace teams based primarily in the United States and Canada. Specifically, the peace teams are composed of people who work in communities to use “nonviolent ways of resolving conflicts without the potentially violent intervention from ‘law enforcement’ or the military.” In the words of Gandhi, this is a form of constructive program – building alternative systems to replace the old systems that no longer serve us.

To get involved, people can begin by signing the Peace Draft. To start, the only requirement is a commitment to deepen one’s study of nonviolence. Van Hook describes the beauty of the Peace Team is that there is something for everyone to do no matter their circumstances. If a person cannot participate actively in conflict resolution, they can serve other functions such as providing education or support.

Conflict resolution is a growing field. Schools as early as the elementary level are starting to incorporate conflict resolution into their curriculum. And international peace teams are being used in areas of violence and armed conflict. One group that does this is Nonviolent Peaceforce. Its teams are invited by communities to provide assistance in resolving conflicts and protection.

Conflict is complex. A violent approach to conflict resolution only has one tool – domination through force. The nonviolent approach has multiple tools. And instead of being imposed from above, the tools are chosen by the community that is affected. The Peaceforce does not take sides in a conflict. A large part of the Peaceforce’s work is listening to communities to understand the particular complexities of their situation and then applying common-sense approaches. Van Hook writes in more detail about the Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan.

Currently a US-based peace team from Veterans for Peace is in Palestine, where it is building relationships with the Palestinians, who are trying to protect their land from the encroaching Israeli settlements. On its second day, it accompanied local villagers into an Israeli settlement and started playing soccer. When the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) arrived, the athletes invited the young soldiers to join them in the game. The Veterans for Peace spoke to the IDF about their experiences of being in the military and realizing that the wars they were fighting and the orders they were following were wrong. They hoped to develop connections with the IDF and to facilitate awareness of their shared humanity.

Violence is a Sign of Weakness

In her 1969 essay “Reflections on Violence,” Hannah Arendt wrote that “Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent.” She explains that power is derived from the support and consent of the people. When those who are in power are compelled to resort to violence, it is a sign that their power is disappearing. She adds, “Power springs up whenever people get together and act in concert, but it derives its legitimacy from the initial getting together. … ”

One aspect of the Great Turning is moving from a hierarchical/patriarchal society in which people see themselves as separate from each other to a society that is non-hierarchical in which people feel connected to each other. Violence was acceptable in the old worldview because it was felt to be necessary and effective. That is no longer the case. Not only is violence destructive, but when we harm others, we cause harm to ourselves.

At the heart of the practice of nonviolence is the recognition that we are all connected and that we are stronger when we work together and through consensus. Van Hook and Nagler emphasize that being connected does not mean that we are the same. At the surface level, people are different, and that diversity is appreciated. But inside, we are related to each other.

Nagler tells the story of a gay pride parade in Michigan in which a member of a local neo-Nazi group started harassing people at the event. Somebody broke a bottle over his head and peace team members quickly moved in to protect him and bring him safely to an ambulance for care. The man’s partner was so touched by their actions that she said something along the lines of, “I used to hate you people, but now I believe that the same blood runs through all of us.”

It’s time to stop glorifying war and violence and replace them with greater knowledge and practice of nonviolent techniques. It is possible to do. The “Cross-Legged Strike” is one example that occurred in 2006 in a very violent area of Colombia, the city of Pereira. Men in the city joined violent gangs because they believed that it made them more sexually appealing. In response, their female partners decided to teach them otherwise by creating a popular campaign to withhold sex because they preferred to have their partners alive for themselves and their children. The campaign included a popular rap song calling for the men to give up their weapons.

We must similarly act to build a popular cultural campaign against violence. As American Empire declines, we must show the world that we are ready to join the global society as a partner rather than a bully. Our aggression is a sign of weakness and will no longer be effective against the rising tide of nonviolent resistance. Let’s begin in our communities to make to peace a reality.

To hear Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers’ interview “Building a Culture of Nonviolent Resistance for Democracy” with Rivera Sun, author of the newly released book The Dandelion Insurrection, and Stephanie Van Hook and Michael Nagler of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, click here.

Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese

Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-host Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media, co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the PopularResistance.org. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication. Reprinted with permission by Dr. Margaret Flowers.

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserDr. Margaret Flowers

Dr. Margaret Flowers is a Maryland pediatrician who left practice to advocate full-time for single-payer health insurance. Despite broad citizen support, Dr. Flowers was stunned by the institutional opposition to the single-payer solution during the national health reform process. In response, she organized protests and was arrested three times for peaceful acts of civil disobedience. Now she is determined to not only change our national healthcare system, but to build an independent, nonviolent broad-based social, economic and environmental justice movement to transform this country. Says Dr. Flowers, “One of the greatest drivers of poor health is wealth inequality.” Learn more about Dr. Margaret Flowers here.

Writing for Peace News

 DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales Call for Submissions

Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. Deadline for submissions is November 30th. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

2014 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.

DoveTales For Your Kindle

Manuel A. López, DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013 ContributorOur beautiful DoveTales journal is now available for your Kindle through Amazon.com. In addition to all three stories from our first Young Writers Contest winners and the work of prominent advisers and outstanding contributors printed in our first hard copy edition, you’ll also find a new poem, “Occupied Series” by Manuel A. López. Purchase your EBook here.

Support Writing for Peace

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Support Writing for Peace by purchasing a hard copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.
Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.


Who Will Stand With The Innocents? by Sam Hamill

Who Will Stand With The Innocents?

By Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdvisorFifty years ago, I found myself in the war-ravaged former nation of Okinawa, where some of the fiercest battles of the Pacific War had taken place, and where I began to learn of the true atrocities of the atomic bombing of Japan. I also heard there from fellow Marines first-hand accounts of the race wars in my own country, about lynchings, about Bull Conner’s dogs set on nonviolent civil rights marchers, stories I had known only from brief news accounts. I learned about how the impoverished people of Vietnam had driven out the imperialist French and now faced a growing American presence as they struggled toward their own democratic self-rule. President Eisenhower had spoken of our need “to protect our investments in tin and tungsten.”

I read Gandhi. I read Zen. I read “War is a Racket” by the Marine Corps general, Smedley Butler, who led the overthrowing of several governments himself. I read Albert Camus’s remarkable essay, “Neither Victims nor Executioners,” and I became a devout anti-war campaigner, much to the chagrin of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Fifty years have passed, each with its wars, its body counts, its “collateral damage” that strips people of names and faces and bloody bodies, leaving only numbers, numbers deemed “necessary” by the political class that overthrew democratic governments from Iran to South and Central America, always for the benefit of corporate giants-Standard Oil, the United Fruit Company.

In the past twenty years, following Bush Senior’s bombing of Iraq, Clinton bombed Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan; George W. Bush, bombed Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, and Somalia; Barack Obama has bombed Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. And now the drum-beating to wage war in Syria grows ever louder. The President says we have no definable objective and yet bombs are necessary once again. And once again, as I have every year for half a century, I call out the corporate rulers for their murders and lies because without justifying mass murder and justifying torture and lies, war would be impossible to wage. I ask today, as I did ten years ago, “Who will speak for the conscience of our country?” Who will stand with the innocents we have damned?

True Peace  

Half broken on that smoky night,
hunched over sake in a serviceman’s dive
somewhere in Naha, Okinawa,
nearly fifty years ago,

I read of the Saigon Buddhist monks
who stopped the traffic on a downtown
so their master, Thich Quang Dúc, could take up
the lotus posture in the middle of the street.
And they baptized him there with gas
and kerosene, and he struck a match
and burst into flame.

That was June, nineteen-sixty-three,
and I was twenty, a U.S. Marine.

The master did not move, did not squirm,
he did not scream
in pain as his body was consumed.

Neither child nor yet a man,
I wondered to my Okinawan friend,
what can it possibly mean
to make such a sacrifice, to give one’s life
with such horror, but with dignity and conviction.
How can any man endure such pain
and never cry and never blink.

And my friend said simply, “Thich Quang Dúc
had achieved true peace.”

And I knew that night true peace
for me would never come.
Not for me, Nirvana. This suffering world
is mine, mine to suffer in its grief.

Half a century later, I think
of Bô Tát Thich Quang Dúc,
revered as a bodhisattva now–his lifetime
building temples, teaching peace,
and of his death and the statement that it made.

Like Shelley’s, his heart refused to burn,
even when they burned his ashes once again
in the crematorium–his generous heart
turned magically to stone.

What is true peace, I cannot know.
A hundred wars have come and gone
as I’ve grown old. I bear their burdens in my bones.
Mine’s the heart that burns
today, mine the thirst, the hunger in the soul.

Old master, old teacher,
what is it that I’ve learned?

From Border Songs (Word Palace Press, 2012)

Used by permission.

 About Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill, Writing for Peace AdvisorSam Hamill is the author of more than forty books, including fifteen volumes of original poetry (most recently Measured by Stone and Almost Paradise: New & Selected Poems & Translations); four collections of literary essays, including A Poet’s Work and Avocations: On Poetry & Poets; and some of the most distinguished translations of ancient Chinese and Japanese classics of the last half-century. He co-founded, and for thirty-two years was editor at, Copper Canyon Press. He taught in prisons for fourteen years and has worked extensively with battered women and children. An outspoken political pacifist, in 2003, declining an invitation to the White House, he founded Poets Against War, compiling the largest single-theme poetry anthology in history, 30,000 poems by 26,000 poets. Learn more about Sam Hamill here.

Take Action

Write your Representatives: Prevent an Attack on Syria Now

Hit the Streets: Americans Don’t Want A War in Syria—And They’re Working Hard to Prevent One, by Kevin Zeese and Writing for Peace Adviser Margaret Flowers

Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace News

Congratulations To Our New Young Advisers

Writing for Peace is pleased to introduce two remarkable young peace activists, the founding members of our new panel of Young Advisers. Both have shown an extraordinary commitment to peace. Check their pages and watch our blog for their inspirational posts.

Natan Blanc, Writing for Peace Young AdviserNatan Blanc is an Israeli who refused to serve in the IDF (Israeli army) “because of its actions against the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.” Natan held fast to his convictions, despite being jailed ten times.

Lyla June Johnston, Writing for Peace Young AdviserLyla June Johnston is a Navajo poet and peace activist from Taos, New Mexico, who has found her home in the service of humanity.

Writing for Peace is accepting nominations of young activists, writers, and artists, for our new panel of Young Advisers. Please send nominations by email, along with the reasons for your nomination, and contact information to editor@writingforpeace.org, subject heading: Young Adviser Nominations.

2014 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.

 DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales Call for Submissions

Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Help us reach out to schools and young writers by purchasing a copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Don’t Weaponize My Panties. Please. by Adriana Paramo

Don’t Weaponize My Panties. Please.

by Adriana Paramo

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserI don’t know what disturbs me more: that India would consider fighting sexual violence against women by weaponizing their underwear or that the brains behind this device are not social scientists but three automobile engineering students who named this nugget SHE, Society Harnessing Equipment.

The three young undergraduates devised, and are about to commercially launch, a line of lingerie equipped with GPS, GSM capabilities and pressure sensors designed to deliver 3,800kV- shocks upon activation. The attacker gets up to 82 shocks and the GPS and GSM systems alert the police as well as the girl’s parents.

The concept, as innovative as it might be, saddens me beyond words. The SHE represents to me a declaration of surrender; it says that men are hopeless brutes incapable of learning the basics of mutual respect and common sense and because their feral lust and insatiable hunger for power over women wreak havoc in buses and public spaces alike, it is necessary to lace one’s panties with modules, wires and stun generators. Conversely, I believe the SHE is also a declaration of war against women’s sexuality. The designers of the anti-rape device haven’t been able to find a suitable material in which to pack their rather bulky invention. I cringe at the thought of these three kids working in a lab, stuffing their gadget into panties made of parachute material one day, and spacesuit stuff the next. A woman’s underwear is not a weapon or a shield, and definitely it’s nobody’s business; we like it soft and comfy; and whether it’s made of cotton, nylon, satin, silk or a concoction of synthetic fibers, how I cover my crotch is a decision devoid of social malaises, technological innovations and political agendas.

SHE is a technological response to a social crisis of global proportions. Sexual violence against women is rampant in India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, the United States, Botswana, Brazil, Peru, and sadly, many other countries. Rape is not a malfunctioning machine, it’s not a glitch in the system, or a Trojan malware threatening to steal my credit card details. SHE can’t be nor should it be used as a technological response to a social issue, just as bulletproof backpacks for schoolchildren are not a solution to the problem of the proliferation of weapons in the street.

For the record, I have never been raped, but this does not keep me from hurting when I read or hear about women being raped. That I haven’t been a victim of any form of sexual assault doesn’t make me less sympathetic, less worried about women’s safety, less keen on severely punishing those already found guilty of sexual assault; on the contrary, it makes me more determined to find viable solutions to this social calamity and I know that a gadget is not one of them.

I also know that opposing the weaponization of underwear, with calculated words and from the safety and comfort of my office, may seem trivial and worlds apart from the quotidian fear of the young women recently gang-raped in the United States, Brazil and India (New Delhi is the current rape capital of the world). Writing about “it” is not the same as living through “it.” Yet, as a writer of women’s issues, words are my only weapons and so I use them now to object to the placing of gizmos in women’s underwear as a deterrent to rape.

SHE is not a desperate measure or the last resort after an endless list of tried-and-failed solutions to India’s endemic sexual violence. Little has been done so far to identify the source, treat and uproot the problem. President Pranab Mukherjee has recently given his assent to the Anti-rape Bill which provides for life term and even death sentence for rape. That’s a start but it’s not enough. The ultimate goal should not be to punish the attacker but to reduce the number of and eventually eradicate all sexual assaults; a task that can only be accomplished through radical changes in the mindsets of both men and women.

  • Studies show that women are more likely to report sex crimes to female police officers and medical examiners. The recruitment of women in those two areas seems paramount.
  • In response to the recent gang-rapes in India, a legislator suggested to forbid skirts as a way to curtail sexual crimes. This notion that women bring rape on themselves by wearing provocative clothing is widespread and sadly not exclusive to Indian mentality. A woman deserves respect whether she walks down the street in a miniskirt and cowboy boots or under a black robe.
  • Hatred, like love, starts at home. Children raised in violent homes where wife-beating is the norm, are likely to perpetuate the cycle as adults. The acceptance of domestic violence, so rampant in many cultures and subcultures, emphasizes the roles of men and women as victimizer and victim.
  • A raped woman is perceived by some as “damaged goods,” and in India this translates into unmarriageable material. A girl’s prospects of marriage are more important than bringing her rapist to justice and for this very reason, she might be forced to compromise and either marry her rapist or drop the charges altogether; a conundrum that is increasingly leading rape victims in India to commit suicide.
  • The widespread belief that rape is about power and control desexualizes the assault. If the only motivation for a rape is the desire to dominate, humiliate and degrade the victims through the use of physical violence and intimidation, sexual gratification would not be a part of the equation, but it is, because without the sexual element the assault is not rape.

My main concern with this SHE gadget is that it changes the rules of the dialogue. It moves into the technical field that which belongs in the social realm. All of us, not just Indians, need to educate our boys and girls, re-educate our teenagers, campaign for violence-free homes, instill respect for women’s sexuality, and enforce a zero-tolerance law to punish sexual transgressors. My guess is that if a society channels its resources towards education, therefore, prevention, fewer shelters, support groups, crisis centers, hotlines and other social band-aids will be needed.

The other problem with gadgets is our tendency to refine and extrapolate their function. What comes after the weaponization of women’s panties? Bullet-firing bras à la Fembot? Pedophile-proof diapers? Tear-gas spitting mobile phones for our daughters? The sky is the limit.

Call me old fashioned, but I still believe in dialogue and respect. Call me a dreamer, but I have infinite faith in my male counterparts and their universal potential to be good men. Call me oblivious, but I refuse to weaponize my panties. So here’s my answer to the three Indian students: I know you have women’s best interests at heart. Thank you. However, I think your invention is misguided and rather than to uproot the problem, it deepens it. I think you are young and have the time and passion required to come up with viable solutions, but for the time being, leave our crotches alone. Please.

 About Adriana Paramo

Looking for Esperanza, by Adriana ParamoAdriana Paramo is a Colombian writer, born in cold Bogotá but raised in Medellín, The City of Eternal Spring. She is the author of “Looking for Esperanza,” published by Benu Press, winner of the 2011 Social Justice and Equity Award in Creative Nonfiction, and listed in the Top 10 Latino Books of 2012.

Learn more about Adriana Paramo and her work here.

Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace News

2014 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.


DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales Call for Submissions

Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Help us reach out to schools and young writers by purchasing a copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.


Malala Yousafzai’s Journey to the UN, by Alexandra Kinias

Malala Yousafzai’s Journey to the UN

by Alexandra Kinias

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a breath of fresh air in an environment polluted with gunpowder and radicalism. She is a spring blossom growing in a field of thorny bushes, only to be injured by their needles. In October 2012, on her way back from school, Malala’s school bus was ambushed by the Taliban. She was shot with one bullet, which went through her head, neck, and ended in her shoulder. The young girl was left to die, together with two of her friends who were also shot on site. She was fifteen years old.

Though Malala was not the first to be assaulted by this terrorist group, she was specifically targeted in this tragic attack that was condemned worldwide. Many other girls face the same fate together with their teachers in sporadic attacks around Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan where the Taliban influence dominates. The girls’ only crime was going to school.

Malala’s journey to recover from her brain injuries was remarkable, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The young girl has demonstrated, throughout her life, nothing but strength, resilience and courage.

Growing up in the Swat province in Pakistan, Malala had experienced the Taliban’s rule first hand. A smart young student, in 2009, at the age of 12, she wrote for a BBC blog under a pseudo name about her experience living under the Taliban during the battle of Swat. As the war intensified, her family was dispersed from their hometown and Malala ended up living in a refugee camp for a few months. Later that year, after her family reunited at the end of the war, she returned home only to find that the Taliban had closed the girls’ schools. Inspired by her father’s activism in political life, Malala committed herself to become a politician and an activist for girl’s rights. In the documentary for the NYTimes, Class Dismissed, she explained why she wanted to be involved in the political life, “I have a new dream … I must be a politician to save this country. There are so many crises in our country. I want to remove these crises.”

By the end of 2009, she had received wide international exposure and began to publicly advocate for female education. She brought the world’s attention to the critical situation of girl’s education in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In her speeches, she bravely condemned the rule of the Taliban and demanded the right of girls to go to school. After receiving the National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan, her name received wider recognition, but that came with a price: her life was in peril. At the age of 12, Malala was receiving death threats from the Taliban. But in defiance of them, she didn’t deter from the active role and the course of life she had set for herself. As the death threats failed to silence her, the Taliban leaders unanimously agreed to kill her in a meeting they held in the summer of 2012.

The Pakistani Taliban justified their failed assassination attempt by claiming Malala was the symbol of the infidels and obscenity, and announced that, if she survived, the group would target her again. They blamed her father for encouraging her to attack the Taliban in her speeches. According to the Taliban, Malala’s defending her right and the right of girls to go to school was propaganda against Islam, but the truth of the matter is that the Taliban view women’s education as a direct threat to them and what they represent. Malala was shot in the head. They wanted to blow her brain out. That’s exactly what the Taliban want; to rob women their right and privilege to think. Taliban fear the education of women. With girl’s education they will lose their control and dominance over them, this control that only thrives with ignorance.

After the recovery from this reprehensible attack, Malala emerged stronger and more resilient than ever. On July 12, 2013, on her sixteenth birthday, she delivered a speech to the UN that was viewed by millions of people worldwide. On the event that was dubbed as Malala Day, she was draped with the shawl of the late Benazir Buhto, the Pakistani politician who was also assassinated by another radical group. Malala captivated hearts with her speech and received multiple standing ovations as she delivered her powerful statement that incited peace, forgiveness, courage and strength. Her speech to the UN was not just a blow to the terrorists who wanted to silence her, but also a reminder of which side the world is standing. The battle between darkness and light is long and fierce. Even though the weapons of the darkness are more deadly, but as Malala said in her speech, “Pens are mightier than guns.”

The aspiring young woman is setting an example of hope and determination. She is a role model of defiance for all the girls who are battling to go to school under inhumane conditions, and bullets. Malala believes that education is the only hope for a better future and she is determined to fight for every child’s right for education.“So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first,” Malala said.

To view Malala’s Speech at the UN, click here.

Reprinted with permission from “Silenced Voices, Wasted Lives.”

Alexandra Kinias, Writing for Peace AdviserAbout Alexandra Kinias

Born and raised in Egypt, Alexandra Kinias graduated as a Mechanical Engineer in 1987. She pursued a career overseas with a multinational corporation that built power distribution plants on the Caribbean Island of Antigua and Barbuda.  She moved to America in 1995 and worked for a company that did business in the Middle East and Europe. In American, Alexandra began her career as a writer. She studied screenplay and creative writing. A screenplay writer, novelist and a photographer. Her passion for movies, books, art and extensive world traveling is translated in her writing and photography. She co-wrote the story of the movie Cairo Exit, censored in Egypt, yet received international recognition and won best non-European film in the European Independent Film festival.

She is an advocate for women’s rights. Her blog Silenced Voices, Wasted lives is dedicated to women’s issues in general and women in the Middle East in particular. Her published fiction novel Black Tulips takes place between Egypt and the USA. Black Tulips reveals the hardships that women living in male dominant societies are exposed to. Her articles are published in Kalimat magazine, a North American publication about the Arab region. Alexandra lives with her husband in Scottsdale, AZ and she is working on her non-fiction book Silenced Voices, a collage of her articles about women’s issues. Learn more about Alexandra Kinias and her work here.

Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace News

Writing for Peace Young Writers' Contest2014 Young Writers Contest

The Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.


Peace. Peace, Brother. Peace Be Unto You. by Phyllis Barber

Peace.  Peace, Brother.  Peace Be Unto You.

by Phyllis Barber

Phyllis Barber, Writing for Peace AdviserThere’s been talk about peace from time immemorial, yet there are times in all centuries and definitely in today’s world when peace seems a foreign, alien concept. Try reading an account of turbulent history—beheadings, joustings, uprisings, duels, war upon war. Read the news of yet another murder or massacre in print or on-line. Watch television and stream the heat of another crime wave into the privacy of your living room. It seems as though mankind (and I choose that traditional noun with some thought) is wired to and fascinated with contention: borders, territory, possessions, rights, religious claims (when religions are supposed to mend humankind rather than tear it apart because one religion thinks differently than another about which god prevails).

Have you ever wondered why many people, even intelligent and religious ones who are supposed to have other solutions, think that the best way to solve a problem is to buy a gun or kill someone else who doesn’t agree with them or look like them or sing similar praises in similar language? It seems that, to many, there’s no solution without a Big Stick, without cannons, repeating rifles, or machine guns. These speak. Loudly. Assertively. Powerfully. Gentle, peaceful people don’t get the listening ear. Armies do. Armbands. Uniforms. Crisp pleats in one’s trousers. Is this penchant for war and supremacy part of our DNA, our skin and bones? Why is it such a prevalent solution? Is the world nothing more than a powder keg to be blown by the necessity of power over all and everything? Have we been hijacked by the fear that grabs us, shakes us by the lapels, and makes us want to act bigger than we really are? Use guns as an extension of our weakness? But those who think otherwise need to take their part—offer their opinions, their questions, and their propositions. Not sit idly by.

I admit that I don’t know answers—I only raise the questions that trouble me, but I’m thinking that the basic and most powerful peace is within one’s self, the place of stillness and calm where one is grateful for the good aspects of his or her life and free of demands on and expectations of self and others. This interior peace can be nurtured. When I’ve spent time on a high mountain trail and have felt the eternal peacefulness in those mountains that have endured so many harsh winters, been subjects to the refining bottom of massive glaciers, and have still provided home and protection to a myriad of animals, I’ve caught a glimpse of this inner peace that creates a desire for more. If people could sit or stand by the side of a still mountain lake and watch dragonflies dart forward, backward, and reverse course mid-air, maybe they could feel a new kind of stillness and harmony that doesn’t exist in most contemporary places. Maybe opposition and contention are part and parcel of the condition of being human, but when you’re in the mountains that have lasted for thousands of years while men and their wars come and go, you can feel a peace that calms and reassures. When you see that still lake slightly ruffled by a breeze and see a fish jump and leave a concentric ring that marks its hiding place, anxiety and fear leave your heart and mind. Your shoulders relax. You breathe deeply and have no desire to argue, to  protest your rights, to claim your sovereignty over anyone or anything. It is all so much larger than your small self—this abundance in the everlasting mountains. When you linger in stillness and a deer leaps gracefully through the nearby trees, you feel the embrace of something large and profoundly peaceful. And that helps you understand the true essence of this thing called peace. Maybe you can pick up a smooth pebble and carry it back home to remind yourself.

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Phyllis Barber

Phyllis Barber, Writing for Peace AdviserI joined Writing for Peace because I always believed that harmony between people is possible (maybe because I was the middle child who was always trying to balance the family dynamics). If only we can listen to what other people are saying and learn to receive them, rather than rebuffing them straightaway for some ridiculous reasons such as difference in education, economic level, religious affiliation, gender, color, shape of the face or the torso or feet, etc. I have found when I can open my awareness to another person and literally open up to who and what they are all about, a significant change happens between us—a connection at the level of spirit, that mysterious essence so much larger and wiser than we are.

~Phyllis Barber

Phyllis Barber  is the author of seven books (a novel about the building of the Hoover Dam, two books of short stories, two children’s books, and two memoirs, one of which, How I Got Cultured, won the Associated Writers and Writing Program Award for Creative Nonfiction in 1991). Her latest book, Gentle Fire: A Spiritual Odyssey is due out from Quest Books in May, 2014. It is a collection of essays based on her travels to a variety of spiritual practices, both traditional and non-traditional, in an attempt to find the Spirit that dwells in all people to one degree or another. Her desire is to help create harmony and understanding between people of seemingly opposing ideas and sensibilities. She has taught creative writing for the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program for 19 years, and is currently residing in Park City, Utah, where she writes, edits, and critiques manuscripts for other writers. Learn more about Phyllis Barber and her work here.

Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace News

Lorraine Currelley Joins Advisory Panel

Lorraine Currelley, Writing for Peace AdviserThe African proverb “I See You” and  the name Writing for Peace resonate with me. I’ve come to think of them as kindred spirits. Both embody the spirit of community and collaboration. An inter-generational worldwide community, working to create a world where peace is a reality. A community where each member sees each other through our connected humanity. In doing so, holding the key to connecting with all ecosystems.

Joining Writing for Peace is an opportunity to join with community to work for world  peace via writing. Our words are powerful tools. Tools having an extraordinary ability to act as a catalyst for positive change. A catalyst to promote understanding and connection between people. An opportunity to learn from each other and experience shared humanity. An opportunity to exercise our creative energies, talents and gifts; to unite our world community. Our words nurture, heal and empower. There are no inferiors nor superiors, we all bring something to the table equally important.

~Lorraine Currelley

Lorraine Currelley joins Writing for Peace as a poet, writer, educator, activist and Mental Health Counselor, as well as the founder of Poets Network & Exchange, a positive and supportive space for poets and writers of all levels, where she facilitates poetry and creative writing workshops and produces featured poetry readings, open mics and literary events. She holds a Masters in Mental Health Counseling and a Certificate in Thanatalogy (grief and bereavement.) When she’s not writing poetry and short stories, she writes for scientific and literary publications on social, mental health, and grief and bereavement issues.

Lorraine Currelley is the former first and only president of  The Harlem Arts Fund, and the recipient of numerous community service awards for her work with the homeless and community efforts. She’s also the founder and editor of The Currelley Literary Journal, a blog where she writes articles, commentaries, reviews and interviews. LC Information and Resource Center, a resource and information blog which addresses domestic and sexual violence, providing information and links to resources nationwide. As a poet Lorraine Currelley is widely anthologized in literary publications. Learn more about Lorraine Currelley and her work here.

Writing for Peace Young Writers' Contest2014 Young Writers Contest

The Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest is officially open! Deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Our 2013 contest reached students in 21 countries, we hope to double the number of entries in 2014. (Meet our 2013 winners here!) Help us spread the word to schools across the globe. Email editor@writingforpeace.org to learn how your school can receive free bookmarks for participating students. Check out our complete guidelines here.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Purchase a copy of our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.



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