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Ethiopia: The Cry of the Imburi

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations on November 30, 2021 at 9:33 PM

By René Wadlow

The Imburi are spirits that are said to inhabit the forests of Gabon in Equatorial Africa and who cry out for those who can hear them at times of impending violence or danger. The Imburi have been crying out over the increasing dangers of the conflict in Ethiopia which began on November 3, 2020. However, during the past year, the conflict has spread to other parts of Ethiopia and has impacted neighboring countries.

The fighting in Tigray becomes more complex each day as Ethiopian Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces and ethnic militias face Tigrayan forces. There is a buildup of Sudanese government forces on the Ethiopian-Sudan border where refugees flee into Sudan. The whole Horn of Africa, already fragile, is in danger of greater destabilization.

For the moment, all efforts for mediation proposed by the United Nations (UN), by the African Union or individual states such as the USA have been refused by the Ethiopian central government. Many of the former officials of the Tigray Province have fled to other countries. Thus, it is not clear who is in a position to negotiate for the Tigray factions were negotiations to be undertaken.

Isolated Children in Tigray (C) Rod Waddington

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has sent representatives to Ethiopia to collect information on human rights violations related to the conflict in Tigray. With great difficulty some information on massive human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law has been collected. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has spoken out on these violations involving mass killings, rapes, and the abduction of civilians when presenting the report on November 3, 2021 in Geneva. However, she stressed the difficulties of collecting information and the impossibility to visit certain areas where massive violations were said to have taken place. Amnesty International has also tried to collect information by telephone since its representatives were not allowed to enter the country.

On November 2, 2021, a state of emergency covering all of Ethiopia was declared by the federal government. Arrests of Tigrayans living in the capital Addis Ababa followed. Travel within the country is limited and heavily controlled by the police and the military. There is talk of a wide-spread roundup of Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa and other large cities and placing them in camps. There is an increase in local self-defense groups as fear grips the country.

There are few signs of compromise or a willingness to deal with the deep consequences of the armed conflict. There might be some possibilities for nongovernmental, Track II type efforts to see where some progress might be made. The Association of World Citizens, knowing the fragile nature of the confederation of provinces which make up the Ethiopian State had made a first appeal for a ceasefire and negotiations in good faith shortly after fighting had started in early November 2020. However, for the moment, possibilities for mediation either by governments or nongovernmental organizations have not been acted upon. A situation which needs to be follow carefully.

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

The Fire of Love: A Sufi Path in Islam

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace on November 28, 2021 at 5:45 PM

By René Wadlow

Enough of phrases and conceits and metaphors!

I want burning, burning, become familiar with

that burning! Light up a fire of love in thy soul,

Burn all thought and expressions away.

Jalal al-Din Rumi

Sufism — mysticism in the Islamic world — has flourished chiefly in Arab countries and in Persia, and later in what is now India and Pakistan. In Persia and the Indian Sub-continent, Sufism built upon earlier pre-Islamic traditions of mystic thought. As Walter Stace noted in his Teachings of the Mystics, “The natural drift toward pantheism which is a general feature of mysticism in the West — where the theologians and ecclesiastical authorities try to suppress it and brand it as heresy — is even more pronounced in Sufism than in Christianity — although Muslim orthodoxy disapproves of it quite as emphatically as Christian orthodoxy does. Indeed, the Islamic disapproval may be stronger than the Christian, owing to its more rigid monotheism. After all, no Christian mystic was ever martyred for his pantheistic utterances, whereas this did happen in Baghdad” to Al Hallaj in 922.

Sufism is not one homogeneous body of thought or a well-defined set of doctrines and practices. There is considerable internal diversity. However, central to Sufi practice is the role of the spiritual teacher (pir or sheikh) who is believed to have received esoteric wisdom from his own master forming a chain. The role of the teacher has always been to guide the disciple in ways of meditation or other mystical practices often related to breathing so he would acquire spiritual insight through inner experience.

Jalal al-Din Rumi

These chains can be considered separate spiritual orders. Often the tomb of a Sufi leader becomes a shrine and a pilgrimage site. In Pakistan recently, there have been armed attacks on popular Sufi shrines carried out by more legalistic Muslim groups.

Spirituality, in the Sufi tradition, cannot be set apart from life itself, and spiritual development can only be realized through living life to the fullest expression of our potential, using all of our human faculties with the ideal of becoming a more complete human being.

In Europe and the USA, one of the best known of the Sufi ‘chains’ is that of an Indian teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan, of the Chishti Sufi Order, named after the Indian town where it had its headquarters who came to the West in 1910 to create a Sufi movement in North America and Europe. He set his headquarters in Geneva, an international city because of the League of Nations. He married Ora Baker, a cousin of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of The Christian Science Monitor. His son Vilayat Inayat Khan succeeded him. In 2000, the grandson Zia Inayat Khan assumed leadership of what has become the Sufi Order International.

In the West, the Islamic base of the teaching is rarely stressed though it is not denied. Most of the members do not come from traditional Muslim families. Here in France where I have had some contacts, most members are not from North Africa which makes up the bulk of the Islamic population but are rather Europeans who are looking for meditation techniques and who could have chosen Tibetan Buddhism had a different opportunity presented itself.

Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

Pir Vilayat has written on the aims of his work: “I am trying to develop an updated spirituality for our times. I believe that to develop our own being to the highest potential we need to discover our ideal and allow an inborn strength, a conviction in ourselves, to give us the courage toward developing this ideal. This requires both knowing our life purpose and mastery or discipline over ourselves in terms of body, mind, and emotions. With an attitude of joy and enthusiasm, we do not suppress but instead control and direct impulses toward the fulfillment of our goals.”

There is a good deal of emphasis placed on “opening the heart” and love as love is considered an attribute of God. Pir Vilayat wrote “When the light of love has been lit, the heart becomes transparent, so that the intelligence of the soul can see through it; but until the heart is kindled by the flame of love, the intelligence, which is constantly yearning to experience life on the surface, is groping in the dark.”

Philip Gowins has written a useful introduction which outlines exercises linked both to breathing and to creative visualization in meditation. The subtitle of the book is “A Field Guide to the Spiritual Path” (1). However, the emphasis is on the need for a teacher as writings are only of limited help and in working alone one may misjudge one’s own progress on the path.

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Note

1) Philip Gowins. Practical Sufism: A Guide to the Spiritual Path (Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 2010, 219 pp.)

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

A Korean War Peace Treaty Proposal

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Korean Peninsula, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on November 19, 2021 at 8:59 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) warmly welcomes the statement to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on September 21, 2021 by President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea. “Today, I once again urge the community of nations to mobilize its strengths for the end-of-war declaration on the Korean Peninsula. When the parties involved in the Korean War stand together and proclaim an end to the war, I believe we can make irreversible progress in denuclearization and usher in an era to complete peace.”

On March 14, 2013, the AWC had sent a message to the then UN Secretary-General, Ban ki-moon, urging a UN-sponsored Korean-sponsored Korean Peace Settlement Conference now that all the States which participated in the 1950-1953 Korean War were UN member states. The 60th anniversary of the 1953 Armistice would be an appropriate occasion.

Such a Korean Peace Settlement Conference could build a framework for a broader, comprehensive approach to Northeast Asia security. The AWC stressed the need for strong diplomatic measures by concerned States such as China, Russia, the USA, and Japan. The World Citizens highlighted that in the past, there had been a series of dangerous but ultimately resolvable crisis concerning the two Korean States. However, there are always dangers of miscalculations and unnecessary escalation of threats.

The AWC noted in its message that there had been a number of Track II, nongovernmental efforts, on Korean issues and that the voices of civil society are legitimate and should be heard.

Today, the conditions for such a Korean Peace Settlement Conference seem more favorable than in 2013. The opportunities should be actively explored.

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

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