The Official Blog of the

Archive for May, 2014|Monthly archive page

Hugh Joseph Schonfield, the World Citizen Pioneer who Tried to Unite the Holy Land

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on May 24, 2014 at 8:50 PM

HUGH JOSEPH SCHONFIELD, THE WORLD CITIZEN PIONEER WHO TRIED TO UNITE THE HOLY LAND

By René Wadlow

 

Hugh Joseph Schonfield (1901-1988) was the first to incorporate the term “world citizen” into the name of a nongovernmental organization: the Commonwealth of World Citizens in 1938. The Commonwealth of World Citizens was to have an emphasis on service to humanity and a potential role as impartial mediator in international disputes. The founding was what he called a “revolt into sanity” from a mentally-deranged world in which Fascism, Nazism, Communism and militarized Shintoism flourished. From 1941 to 1948, Schonfield published a magazine called The World Citizen. As he said in a speech to the Constructive World Peace Conference in April 1940 “External forces, the agents of God, have caused the emergence in the world itself of ideas of World Community and World Citizenship. It is seen by serious political thinkers that if peace and justice are to reign here there must be a loyalty above that which is due from subjects to their own nation state. Much is being done, and rightly, to encourage such ideas. What we have to concern ourselves with is the bridge that will bring us safely to that farther shore. The bridge must be one that will carry us eventually to the New Jerusalem, not to a new Babylon.”

He wrote, “So many of the grave problems of our time are due to the fact that we are living in a radical transition, having to relate to the rapid advances of science which are requiring us to move forward into a wholeness and interdependence for which we are not sufficiently prepared. There are inevitable consequences, which chiefly affect our self-consciousness. The problems of the transition period affect individuals just as much as nations. Multitudes find themselves incapable of adjusting to the new demands and fear loss of identity.”

In his Mondcivitan Writings ('mondcivitan" coming from "mondcivitano" which is the Esperanto for "World Citizen"), Schonfield developed a comprehensive World Citizen thought, long before the Association of World Citizen was created.

In his Mondcivitan Writings (‘mondcivitan” coming from “mondcivitano” which is the Esperanto for “World Citizen”), Schonfield developed a comprehensive World Citizen thought and ideology, long before the Association of World Citizens itself was created.

Hugh Schonfield drew parallels between the current period of transition with the Jewish society at the time of Jesus, a period which was the focus of most of his writings. He wrote in 1936 History of Jewish Christianity and in 1939 Jesus: A Biography. During the Second World War while working on Middle East issues for the British government, he published in 1943 Judaism and World Order. Shortly afterwards he published Jesus: Man and Messiah, Readings from the Aprocryphal Gospels. A major work was published in 1955, a translation of the New Testament with notes relating the work to the thoughts of the period in which it was written and linking it to Jewish writings of the same period. As a Jew, he did not want his translation to become known as the “Schonfield New Testament” so it was published in 1955 as The Authentic New Testament. He continued his research on Jesus and messianic expectations and in 1965 published The Passover Plot which became a ‘best seller’ selling over two million copies. He became very interested in the Dead Sea scrolls and one of his last books in 1984 was The Essene Odyssey.

With his interest in the Holy Land, he was particularly concerned with Arab-Jewish relations and became an active champion for the idea of an Israel-Palestine Confederation, setting out proposals in 1944 which also concerned what is now Jordan, the pre-Independence Mandate area.

As Dr. Schonfield wrote in Transnational Perspectives in 1982, “What is clearly called for is a Confederation, possibly on the Swiss model, composed of the states of Palestine and Israel, with Jerusalem as the federal capital. The city would not have to be divided or fought over as to who should possess it. Palestine could have a state capital in the eastern part and Israel in the western sector, if they so desired, but the city as a whole would represent the Confederation.

Jerusalem is the cradle of the world's two major religions, Islam and Christianity, as well as of Judaism. Therefore, why should it have to be a place of hatred and division, and not a place of brotherhood and unity?

Jerusalem is the cradle of the world’s two major religions, Islam and Christianity, as well as of Judaism. Therefore, why should it have to be a place of hatred and division, and not a place of brotherhood and unity instead?

“The advantage of this plan should be obvious. The frontiers between the two states would be internal and unfortified, and would therefore not create a risk of future war. As citizens of the Confederation, both Palestinians and Israelis would enjoy rights of access to all parts for purposes of travel and commerce, and questions of settlement would be covered by federal laws. There should be freedom of conscience for all citizens of the Confederation, but if so desired the religious laws of Islam and Judaism could be operative in the respective component states. The important thing would be that the Confederation would be the common homeland of both Palestinians and Israelis, who would yet have their own states.

“This is not a dream and could readily become a practical reality. What has been provided here is no more than a plan in outline, but it does keep the Holy Land as a unity, a common homeland for both Israelis and Palestinians, and satisfies their aspirations for self-governing statehood. With imagination and goodwill, it would inaugurate a new era in the Near East, and become an inspiration to mankind.” He saw that forms of regional integration are increasingly considered as the principal methodology for general security, development and the safeguard of human rights. Individual, national and regional security should be accompanied by a spirit of mutual acceptance – with economic cooperation and development as a by-product for a future Israel-Jordan-Palestine grouping.

A rocket being fired by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to counter an incoming rocket attack from Gaza. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

As the Middle East remains hopelessly plagued by violence, a rocket is being fired by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to counter an incoming rocket attack on Israel coming from Gaza. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

However, the World Citizen proposals have not been followed by the strong national political leadership needed to bring them to the fore of real political negotiations. The quality of government leadership in the Middle East has been uneven at best. But even the Israeli-Palestinian problems are more complex than the quality of leadership. A new spirit of mutual acceptance will only flourish in the region when individual security and dignity for all will become rooted in law – everywhere in the region. This can happen with a general process of democratization and respect for human rights, with safeguards for ethnic and religious minorities. Such democratic values and practices must become the natural bedrock of society in all the countries of the Middle East.

World Citizens can take inspiration from Hugh Schonfield and in their Middle East efforts put an emphasis on unity rather than division.

 

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations in Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

Advertisements

Ukraine: What Future for ‘Self-Rule’?

In Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on May 24, 2014 at 7:59 PM

UKRAINE: WHAT FUTURE FOR “SELF-RULE”?

By René Wadlow

 

On the eve of the election for President in Ukraine, the heated tensions among factions within the country and between the Russian Federation, the European Union (EU) and the USA seem to be cooling. Talk of a new ‘Cold War’, of economic sanctions, of Russian or NATO imperialism is lessening. More rational discussion on the structures of the Ukrainian State and its relations with other countries now seems possible.

Ukraine faces real internal problems: political, economic and social. There is a need for dialogue, trust-building, and reconciliation within the country − all stepping stones to stable internal peace. The earlier situation in Ukraine did not lend itself to calm considerations of basic orientations or for compromises.

In an April 15 report, the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights had warned that “Misinformation, propaganda and incitement to hatred need be urgently countered in Ukraine to avoid further escalation of tensions in the country… It is critical for the Government to prioritize respect for diversity, inclusiveness and equal participation of all − including minorities in Ukraine.”

One possibility of lowering tensions on a longer-term basis is to start serious discussions on a federal-decentralized government structure that would not divide the country but would foster local and regional autonomy. World Citizens who have a long history of reflection on federalist approaches as elements of conflict resolution have warned against simplified concepts in the Ukraine discussions. Federalism is not a first step to the disintegration of the Ukraine. But it is not a “magic solution” either.

When Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union in late 1991 the country's Russian community did not have any objections. However, since the eviction of President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014, oddly enough, many of Ukraine's Russians have risen up against Kiev and demanded reunification with Russia. (C) (AFP / Genya Savilov)

When Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union in late 1991 the country’s Russian community did not express any objections. However, since the eviction of President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014, oddly enough, many of Ukraine’s Russians have risen up against Kiev and demanded reunification with Russia. (C) (AFP / Genya Savilov)

Factions in eastern Ukraine decided to hold a referendum on Sunday 11 May in a hastily organized way, with little if any public debate on the consequences of the referendum and strong pressure to vote “yes” on the only option presented. The central government, the EU and the USA have all indicated that they considered the referendum and its results as not valid − in fact, illegal. President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation had suggested on the eve of the referendum that it be postponed or not held. However, after the referendum, the Russian government indicated that the referendum showed the “will of the people” and that Russia would abide by the results.

The referendum was organized in only part of eastern Ukraine, in what is newly proclaimed as the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. The question posed concerned “yes” or “no” on the Russian word samostoyatelnost which can be translated as “self rule”. Since there had been no real public discussion, the term could mean − and did mean − different things to different people − everything from greater autonomy within the existing constitution of Ukraine but with a greater recognition of Russian language and culture, autonomy within a to-be-created new Ukrainian federation, an independent state along the lines of Abkhazia, formerly part of neighboring Georgia, or a willingness to join the Russian Federation on the model of Crimea. People were discouraged from voting “no” and few did.

Since Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, leading to the declaration of independence of the two Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as separate republics, Moscow has made all efforts to assert regional leadership and pressure all neighboring countries into recognizing local Russians as its own nationals. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

Since Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, leading to the declaration of independence of the two Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as separate republics, Moscow has exerted substantial political and military pressure to assert regional leadership over Russians both at home and abroad and have all neighboring countries recognize local Russians as Moscow’s own nationals. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

Thus one possible model for the Donetsk and Luthansk People’s Republics are the states created earlier in Republics at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union: Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, Transnistra in Moldova, Nagorno-Karabagh still torn between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the ill-fated Chechen Republic. One reason that President Putin suggested not having a referendum in Ukraine may have been his fears that the pattern of holding an unauthorized referendum would spread. There are a good number of peoples in Russia who are unhappy with the current constitutional status of their area and could look to creating a referendum to express their wishes. “You know where things start but not where they end.”[i]

With the lowering of tensions, the options of creating an independent State on the model of Transnistra or of integration into Russia on the Crimea pattern seems to be ever less likely. Thus the option of greater autonomy under the existing constitution by Parliamentary action seems the more likely, though there may be demands for a constitutional convention and the institutionalizing of autonomy in a new constitution.

The Ukraine crisis showed how easily the dogs of Cold War can be awakened from their sleep. The military, intelligence services and ad hoc armed groups are never far away. While many of us who had worked for better relations between the USA-USSR, NATO-Warsaw Pact during the 1960-1990 period have often gone on to other conflict resolution issues such as the conflicts in the wider Middle East and Africa, the Ukraine events point out dramatically that there is still work to do in Europe.

 

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations in Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

 

[i] For a useful and detailed history of the creation and current status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia see: George Hewitt Discordant Neighbors: A Reassessment of the Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-South Ossetian Conflicts (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2013, 389pp.)

Liberating the Young Women Kidnapped by Boko Haram

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Foundations for the New Humanism, Human Rights, Solidarity, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on May 12, 2014 at 1:53 PM

LIBERATING THE YOUNG WOMEN KIDNAPPED BY BOKO HARAM

By René Wadlow

 

Citizens of the World, motivated by the spirit of compassion symbolized by Kuan Yin appeal to the members of Boko Haram to return the young women taken from the girls’ school in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria.

The actions of Boko Haram undermine the efforts of local and national educational services in Nigeria to overcome the persistent poverty and lack of development in northern Nigeria.

Although the name of the armed group which carried out the kidnapping can be roughly translated as “Western Education is Unlawful” of forbidden, its members know full well that education is neither “Western” or “Southern” but is an effort to train individuals to meet the challenges of life and to develop their full potential as persons. The members of Boko Haram know that education is a crucial need for the development of northern Nigeria and that the education of women is necessary for progress.

Kuan Yin is the bodhisattva (the "compassionate one") associated with compassion as venerated by East Asian Buddhists, usually as a female. The name Guanyin is short for Guanshiyin, which means "Observing the Sounds (or Cries) of the World." (Source: Wikipedia)

Kuan Yin (or Guanyin) is the bodhisattva (the “compassionate one”) associated with compassion as venerated by East Asian Buddhists, usually as a female. The name Guanyin is short for Guanshiyin, which means “Observing the Sounds (or Cries) of the World.” ((c) Wikipedia)

We are sure that many members of the Boko Haram group understand that their actions are morally wrong as well as unlawful under Nigerian law and in violation of the universally-recognized standards of human rights. Thus they will act to return the young women to their home area.

Armed violence will destroy the efforts being made to meet basic needs and to improve the standard of living of all in northern Nigeria. A spirit of compassion should motivate members of Boko Haram to return the young women to their families and to find nonviolent ways to better the lives of all in northern Nigeria.

 

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

%d bloggers like this: