The Official Blog of the

Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Nonviolent Action: The Force of the Soul

In Solidarity, Anticolonialism, The Search for Peace, Asia, Africa, United Nations, Cultural Bridges, Being a World Citizen, Spirituality, Nonviolence on October 2, 2022 at 5:00 PM

By René Wadlow

October 2 is the United Nations (UN) General Assembly-designated Day of Nonviolence chosen as October 2 is the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi, shortly after finishing his legal studies in England, went to South Africa and began working with Indian laborers, victims of discrimination. He looked for a term understandable to a largely English-speaking population to explain his efforts. “Passive resistance” was the most widely used term and had been used by Leo Tolstoy and others. However, Gandhi found the word “passive” misleading. There did exist a Hindu term, ahinsaa meaning non- and hinsa, violence. The term was basically unknown among White South Africans, largely uninterested in Indian philosophical thought.

Gandhi wrote to a friend from his legal studies days in England, Edward Maitland. Maitland and Anna Kingsford were the leaders of the Esoteric Christian Union and the leaders of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society. Maitland introduced Gandhi to the writings of the American New Thought writer Ralph Waldo Trine. Trine was a New Englander and his parents named him after Emerson. His best-known work from which Gandhi took the term for his actions in South Africa is In Tune with the Infinite or Fullness of Peace Power and Plenty. (1)

Trine uses the term “soul force” which Gandhi then used for his work in South Africa. Once back in India, Gandhi wanted an Indian rather than an English expression, and he coined the term satyagraha − holding on to truth: satya as Truth in a cosmic sense is an oft-used Hindu term while “soul” would need some explaining to Indian followers.

All of Trine’s writings contained the same message: soul force could be acquired by making oneself one with God, who was immanent, through love and service to one’s fellow men. The Christ Trine followed was one familiar to Gandhi − the supreme spiritual exemplar who showed men the way to union with their divine essence. Trine promised that the true seeker, fearless and forgetful of self-interest, will be so filled with the power of God working through him that “as he goes here and there, he can continually send out influences of the most potent and powerful nature that will reach the uttermost parts of the world.”

For Trine, thought was the way that a person came into tune with the Infinite. “Each is building his own world. We both build from within, and we attract from without. Thought is the force with which we build, for thoughts are forces. Like builds like and like attracts like. In the degree that thought is spiritualized does it become more subtle and powerful in its workings. This spiritualizing is in accordance with law and is within the power of all.

“Everything is first worked out in the unseen before it is manifested in the seen, in the ideal before it is realized in the real, in the spiritual before it shows forth in the material. The realm of the unseen is the realm of cause. The realm of the seen is the realm of effect. The nature of effect is always determined and conditioned by the nature of its cause.”

Thus, for Mahatma Gandhi, before a nonviolent action or campaign, there was a long period of spiritual preparation of both him and his close co-workers. Prayer, fasting, and meditation were used in order to focus the force of the soul, to visualize a positive outcome and to develop harmlessness to those opposed.

Another theme which Trine stressed and Gandhi constantly used in his efforts to build bridges between Hindus and Muslims was that there was a basic core common to all religions. Gandhi wrote “There is a golden thread that runs through every religion in the world. There is a golden thread that runs through the lives and the teachings of all the prophets, seers, sages, and saviors in the world’s history, through the lives of all men and women of truly great and lasting power. The great central fact of the universe is that the spirit of infinite life and power is back of all, manifests itself in and through all. This spirit of infinite life and power that is back of all is what I call God. I care not what term you may use, be it Kindly Light, Providence, the Over-Soul, Omnipotence or whatever term may be most convenient, so long as we are agreed in regard to the great central fact itself.”

Note:

(1) R.W. Trine, In Tune with the Infinite (New York: Whitecombe and Tombs, 1899, 175 pp.)

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

1989, l’affaire Salman Rushdie : Quand la France célébrait sa Révolution sous les feux croisés de l’obscurantisme

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Literature, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, United Nations on August 15, 2022 at 1:02 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

Après les Etats-Unis en 1976, les Français ont célébré en 1989 le Bicentenaire de la Révolution qui a créé leur république, avec pour traits d’union entre les deux pays le Marquis de la Fayette, «héros des deux mondes» en France comme le deviendrait plus tard Giuseppe Garibaldi en Italie, et le fameux «Ça ira» de Benjamin Franklin, Ministre des Etats-Unis d’Amérique à Paris mais francophone malhabile qui, lorsqu’on lui demandait des nouvelles de son pays, répondait par ces deux seuls mots que les sans-culottes avaient fini par reprendre à leur profit. Mais en France, l’année 1989 fut loin d’être placée sous le seul signe des idéaux de la Révolution française tels que résumés en sa devise officielle – Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.

Depuis le début des années 1980, la France était régulièrement frappée par le terrorisme lié au conflit israélo-palestinien, comme lorsque fut frappé voici quarante ans ce mois-ci, le 9 août 1982, le restaurant Jo Goldenberg dans le quartier juif de Paris. Depuis les élections municipales de 1983 et dans des proportions sans précédent depuis la Libération, l’extrême droite reprenait pied dans la politique française avec les succès électoraux du Front National, dénoncés ainsi que la complaisance du reste de la classe politique par Louis Chedid dans Anne, ma sœur Anne.

C’était déjà beaucoup, évidemment trop. Mais ce n’était pourtant qu’un début, et bientôt une France déjà en proie à ses propres démons allait se trouver prise au cœur de luttes d’envergure mondiale, luttes qui, bien que jamais vraiment disparues, viennent aujourd’hui se rappeler tragiquement au souvenir non seulement de la France mais du monde entier, avec l’agression de Salman Rushdie le 12 août dans l’État de New York.

La Dernière Tentation du Christ : la Contre-Révolution contre-attaque

Le réalisateur américain Martin Scorsese (C) David Shankbone

En août 1988, le cinéaste américain Martin Scorsese sort son nouveau film, La Dernière Tentation du Christ, d’après un roman de Níkos Kazantzákis. En rupture directe avec les récits bibliques, Scorsese y dépeint un Jésus vivant comme tout mortel, peu soucieux du péché ou de la foi, et qui prend soudainement conscience de sa mission divine puis entame un parcours messianique en s’opposant aux dirigeants mêmes du peuple juif dont il est issu. Devant les caméras de Scorsese, c’est Jésus lui-même qui demande à Judas, son premier adepte, de le dénoncer aux Romains afin d’être arrêté et mourir en martyr. Mais, alors qu’il attend la mort sur sa croix, Jésus se voit offrir le salut par un ange qui vient lui dire qu’il est Fils de Dieu, mais non pas le Messie, et doit vivre en homme normal. Sauvé par l’ange de la crucifixion, Jésus épouse Marie-Madeleine et fonde avec elle une famille heureuse.

A la fin de sa vie, Jésus appelle auprès de lui ses anciens disciples et Judas lui avoue que l’ange qui l’a sauvé était en réalité Satan, dont lui est venue cette «dernière tentation» de vivre en homme ordinaire et non en Messie. Mourant, Jésus rampe jusqu’à la croix dont Satan l’avait jadis extrait, dans une Jérusalem en flammes puisque n’ayant jamais été pacifiée par son enseignement. Il implore Dieu de le replacer sur la croix, afin de pouvoir enfin accomplir sa destinée. Crucifié une nouvelle fois, il sait sa mission menée à bien et meurt.

Cette uchronie religieuse soulève la fureur chez les Chrétiens à travers le monde entier, d’abord chez les Protestants aux Etats-Unis même puis, en France, chez les Catholiques, l’Archevêque de Paris Jean-Marie Lustiger parvenant même à faire plier le Gouvernement socialiste de François Mitterrand qui, d’abord partenaire du film, finit par jeter l’éponge.

A sa sortie en France en septembre, le film réveille un mouvement catholique intégriste que l’on croyait décapité depuis l’excommunication au printemps de Monseigneur Marcel Lefebvre et la mise au ban par le Vatican de sa Fraternité sacerdotale Saint-Pie-X traditionaliste et hostile à Vatican II. En octobre, un cinéma projetant La Dernière Tentation du Christ est incendié dans l’est de la France et, à Metz, la visite du Pape Jean-Paul II donne lieu au retrait du film des salles locales. Bientôt, le film est déprogrammé partout ailleurs ou projeté sous protection policière. Le 23 octobre, un commando catholique intégriste attaque l’Espace Saint-Michel à Paris, dernière salle projetant encore le film, blessant quatorze personnes dont deux grièvement.

En pleine célébration de sa Révolution et de l’Être suprême, divinité laïque sous les auspices de laquelle était adoptée le 26 août 1789 la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, la France découvre que l’esprit vengeur des Chouans de Bretagne et des royalistes de Vendée qui refusaient la fin de la monarchie de droit divin était toujours là, et que, comme leurs ancêtres révolutionnaires, les Français républicains de 1989 allaient devoir y faire face. Et à l’intégrisme catholique menaçant le Bicentenaire allait bientôt s’ajouter l’intégrisme issu des rangs d’une autre religion majeure de France – l’Islam.

Allah et Les Versets sataniques : les «intégristes musulmans» à l’assaut de l’Être suprême

En 1989, la France ne parle pas encore d’islamisme. Ce terme n’apparaît que l’année suivante, lorsque les premières élections libres et multipartites en Algérie voient non pas la victoire courue d’avance du Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), jusqu’alors parti unique, mais du Front islamique du Salut (FIS), parti prônant une application stricte de la loi coranique dans tous les domaines de l’administration et de la vie publique. Pour l’instant, en cette année 1989, la France parle d’intégrisme musulman. Jusqu’à présent, cet intégrisme s’est surtout manifesté à travers le terrorisme, non dans une moindre mesure en lien avec l’Iran comme en témoigne l’affaire Wahid Gordji. Mais la France est sur le point de découvrir que cet intégrisme peut aussi frapper là où elle l’attend le moins, sur un terrain où, ceinte de ses idéaux révolutionnaires, elle se croit inexpugnable. Le terrain de la culture.

Dès 1987, la chanteuse Véronique Sanson envisageait une chanson contre l’intégrisme religieux, racontant l’histoire d’un couple maghrébin se muant en auteurs d’un attentat-suicide par l’explosion d’un camion. Alors qu’elle entend intituler sa chanson Dieu, le chanteur Michel Berger, son ancien compagnon qui produit pour elle l’album devant contenir la chanson, lui suggère de l’intituler Allah en référence à l’extrémisme musulman qui, à travers le monde, s’affirme alors de plus en plus comme une «troisième force» entre les Etats-Unis de Ronald Reagan et l’URSS de Mikhaïl Gorbatchev. C’est ainsi que la chanteuse enregistre Allah, où elle s’en prend directement au Dieu de l’Islam pour les attentats commis en son nom par des fanatiques.

Véronique Sanson

Alors qu’elle s’apprête à donner un concert à l’Olympia, Véronique Sanson reçoit des menaces de mort lui enjoignant de ne pas chanter Allah. Le 14 février 1989, une fatwa est lancée contre elle avec ordre de la tuer. La carrière de la chanson s’arrête là. Mais pas celle de l’extrémisme se réclamant de l’Islam, car bien sûr, Rushdie est le prochain sur la liste.

C’est en septembre 1988 que l’écrivain britannique d’origine indienne, naturalisé américain, publie son quatrième roman, Les Versets sataniques (The Satanic Verses). Les protagonistes, deux artistes indiens vivant en Angleterre contemporaine, se trouvent pris dans un détournement d’avion et, alors que l’appareil explose en plein vol, se voient miraculeusement y survivre puis prendre pour l’un, la personnalité de l’Ange Gabriel et, pour l’autre, celle d’un démon. Ce dernier réussit à ruiner la vie, notamment sentimentale, de son comparse qui le lui pardonne toutefois en bon ange que, selon lui, il est devenu. Tous deux rentrés en Inde, le premier tue sa compagne avant de se suicider, et le second, jusqu’alors brouillé avec son identité indienne ainsi que son propre père, se réconcilie avec les deux et reste vivre dans son Inde natale.

Salman Rushdie

Mais derrière cette histoire de deux Indiens frappés d’une maladie mentale, servant de trame au roman de Rushdie, d’autres parties du roman s’avèrent plus problématiques, du moins pour les Musulmans les plus dogmatiques.

A l’instar de Scorsese mettant en scène un Christ détourné de sa mission salvatrice par un Satan habilement déguisé, Rushdie dépeint Mahomet, le Prophète de l’Islam, adoptant trois divinités païennes de La Mecque en violation du principe islamique du dieu unique, les trois divinités ayant dicté à Mahomet de faux versets du Coran en ayant pris l’apparence d’Allah. Le récit romancé de Rushdie amène ensuite des prostituées de La Mecque à se faire passer pour les épouses du Prophète, puis l’un des compagnons de Mahomet à douter de lui en tant que messager de Dieu et l’accuser d’avoir volontairement réécrit certaines parties du Coran en occultant le verbe divin.

Rushdie poursuit avec le récit, toujours fictif, d’une jeune paysanne indienne affirmant recevoir des révélations de l’Archange Jibreel («Gabriel» en arabe). Elle convainc son village entier d’entreprendre un pèlerinage en marchant jusqu’à La Mecque, affirmant qu’ils pourront tous traverser la mer à pied. Mais les pèlerins disparaissent tous, les témoignages discordant sur leur noyade pure et simple ou leur traversée miraculeuse de la mer comme l’aurait promis l’Archange Jibreel.

Puis Rushdie présente un chef religieux fanatique expatrié, «l’Imam», chef religieux en lequel est aisément reconnaissable l’Imam Ruhollah Khomeini, Guide suprême de la République islamique d’Iran, exilé en France jusqu’à la révolution islamique de 1979.

Après le tollé chez les Chrétiens contre Scorsese, c’est au tour de Rushdie d’enflammer le monde musulman. Au Pakistan, Les Versets sataniques sont interdits et, le 12 février 1989, dix mille personnes manifestent contre lui à Islamabad où le Centre culturel américain et un bureau d’American Express sont mis à sac. L’Inde interdit l’importation de l’ouvrage et des autodafés se font jour en Grande-Bretagne.

En février 1989, c’est au tour de Khomeini d’ajouter à la polémique en édictant une fatwa, littéralement une «opinion juridique», facultative en Islam sunnite mais ayant valeur contraignante chez les Chiites, appelant au meurtre de Rushdie et de ses éditeurs ainsi qu’à faciliter ce meurtre à défaut de le commettre soi-même. En Grande-Bretagne, le Gouvernement conservateur de Margaret Thatcher prend fait et cause pour Rushdie, qu’il place sous protection policière, mais un jeune député travailliste nouvellement élu organise dans sa circonscription une marche pour l’interdiction des Versets sataniques et un ancien leader du Parti conservateur, Norman Tebbit, sans aucun lien personnel avec l’Inde ou l’Islam par ailleurs, condamne et injurie publiquement Rushdie.

Là où Martin Scorsese continue d’aller et venir librement, Véronique Sanson ayant tôt fait de sortir de nouveaux titres et faire oublier Allah, Rushdie se trouve désormais prisonnier d’une alternative qui résume tout son sort – la clandestinité ou la mort.

Héritage humaniste contre héritage de haine

Devenu invisible et introuvable, Rushdie publie en 1995 un nouveau roman, Le dernier soupir du Maure (The Moor’s Last Sigh). Mais, pour avoir perdu en intensité, la menace de Téhéran n’en a pas pour autant disparu. Loin des regards, c’est désormais par procuration que Rushdie continue d’être attaqué.

En 1991, les traducteurs italien et japonais de Rushdie sont assassinés. Deux ans plus tard, un traducteur norvégien des Versets sataniques échappe de peu à une tentative de meurtre par balles puis un traducteur turc manque de succomber à un incendie volontaire qui le visait.

En 1998, l’Iran de Mohammed Khatami, Président se voulant réformiste, annonce la fin de la fatwa contre Rushdie qui, à son tour, abandonne sa vie en clandestinité. Mais en 2006, le conservateur nationaliste Mahmoud Ahmadinejad qui a succédé à Khatami fait marche arrière ; pour lui, une fatwa ne peut être annulée que par la personne qui l’a édictée, et puisque Khomeini est décédé, la fatwa est irréversible. Dix ans plus tard, la prime promise par l’Iran pour le meurtre de Rushdie dépasse les trois millions de dollars, notamment sous l’impulsion des médias iraniens.

Et le 12 août dernier, alors qu’il s’apprête à donner une conférence à la Chautauqua Institution dans l’Etat de New York, Rushdie est poignardé au cou par Hadi Matar, Chiite d’origine libanaise dont les réseaux sociaux grouillent de messages de soutien au régime iranien et d’admiration pour Khomeini. Hospitalisé en urgence, placé sous assistance respiratoire, il est menacé de perdre un œil ; le 14, son agent annonce qu’il se rétablit et respire normalement. En Iran, la presse conservatrice couvre de louanges Hadi Matar qui, ensuite amené devant la justice, plaide non coupable.

En France, d’aucuns convoquent aussitôt le souvenir de l’attentat terroriste du 7 janvier 2015 contre la rédaction de Charlie Hebdo, régulièrement accusé de s’en prendre systématiquement à l’Islam et aux Musulmans, en particulier depuis la publication dans ses colonnes, en 2006, de caricatures de Mahomet parues dans un journal d’extrême droite au Danemark. C’est toutefois après avoir critiqué non l’Islam mais l’islamisme, incarné par le parti tunisien Ennahda et une partie du Conseil national de Transition en Libye, que Charlie Hebdo avait connu en 2011 l’incendie de ses locaux à Paris. Quant à l’attentat ayant décimé sa rédaction, Charlie Hebdo le devait bien à deux terroristes résolus, deux frères membres d’Al-Qaïda en Péninsule Arabique, Cherif et Saïd Kouachi. L’Islam ne tue pas, l’islamisme oui.

Pour les Français, immanquablement, le souvenir de l’attentat contre Charlie Hebdo en appelle un autre, celui de l’assassinat de Samuel Paty, professeur d’histoire-géographie victime d’un autre attentat terroriste à Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, en région parisienne, le 16 octobre 2020 alors que se tenait justement à Paris le procès des auteurs présumés des attentats de janvier 2015 dont celui contre Charlie Hebdo, en dehors des frères Kouachi et d’Amedy Coulibaly qui avait attaqué l’Hyper Cacher de la Porte de Vincennes. Samuel Paty avait été dénoncé par certains élèves musulmans comme ayant utilisé des dessins parodiques de Mahomet parus dans Charlie Hebdo, ce qui avait fait de lui une cible du seul fait de son enseignement, non contre l’Islam mais en faveur de l’esprit critique.

Étrangère à l’univers anglo-saxon de l’Amérique de Scorsese ou de l’Angleterre de Rushdie, la France qui célébrait sa Révolution s’était retrouvée victime collatérale des deux épisodes mais n’en avait pas connu de semblable pour ses propres artistes, notamment pas pour Véronique Sanson contre laquelle la fatwa aura fait long feu. Inspirée par le Bicentenaire de la Révolution, Isabelle Adjani, l’une des actrices françaises les plus en vogue à l’époque, n’en avait pas moins lu à haute voix un extrait des Versets sataniques lors de la cérémonie des Césars en 1988. Malgré tout, la France républicaine avait bien dû se faire une raison, constatant que les idéaux qu’elle célébrait et voulait universels ne l’étaient pas tant qu’elle le croyait et que, dans cet Occident qui regardait de haut un «Tiers Monde» auquel il imputait l’intégrisme religieux comme une conséquence de son sous-développement, ce même intégrisme existait aussi, non du seul fait de migrants musulmans mais aussi de citoyens de lignée locale depuis des siècles, non du seul fait d’un Islam qui, ailleurs, avait pris les armes mais aussi du même catholicisme qui, le dimanche matin, rassemblait les fidèles devant Le Jour du Seigneur sur la télévision d’État.

Triste préfiguration d’un monde qui, en quittant les années 1980 et par miracle la Guerre Froide, (r)entrait successivement dans la guerre «chaude» avec la campagne militaire internationale pour la libération du Koweït envahi en août 1990 par l’Irak, les guerres balkaniques avec camps d’internement et purification ethnique rappelant sombrement la Shoah, le terrorisme généralisé, ici islamique du fait d’Al-Qaïda et ailleurs d’extrême droite comme à Oklahoma City, et l’extrême droite au pouvoir, fût-ce en coalition gouvernementale, comme en Italie.

D’aucuns en France voudraient penser que tous les chemins mènent non à Rome, mais à Paris, et donc que tous les chemins en partent aussi. En 1789, la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen avait bel et bien résonné, pour sa part, loin par-delà les frontières du Royaume de France. Là où les textes constitutionnels américains avaient été scrutés principalement par les ennemis britannique et espagnol de la jeune Amérique indépendante, la proclamation française «en présence de l’Être suprême» avait permis au monde entier de comprendre qu’une nouvelle ère commençait. Deux cents ans plus tard, la fête de ce légitime moment de fierté pour le peuple français lui offrait tout le contraire, l’obscurantisme et la violence venues d’ailleurs convergeant vers Paris pour ternir ce moment de joie et ouvrir la voie à une fin du vingtième siècle qui ne pouvait que laisser craindre le pire.

La Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen adoptée le 26 août 1789 (C) Musée Carnavalet – Paris

Aucun respect du droit sans respect de l’écrit

Et le vingt-et-unième siècle n’a pas manqué de tenir les terribles promesses de son prédécesseur. Pire attentat terroriste de l’histoire en 2001, extrême droite au pouvoir dans deux pays d’Europe et ayant manqué de l’être aussi en France en 2002, invasion de l’Irak cette fois sans mandat international en 2003, tortures de civils dans ce même Irak l’année suivante …  La liste serait bien trop longue. Mais une chose est sûre, ce qui était au vingtième siècle le futur ressemble horriblement à ce qui était vu, à l’époque, comme un passé révolu.

Des écrivains comme Rushdie, tous les pouvoirs tyranniques en ont toujours emprisonné, interdit, torturé voire tué. Dans le contexte individuel de 1989, plus encore en France, Rushdie était devenu le symbole vivant d’un mal nouveau, menaçant un monde où le Mur de Berlin était toujours debout même si l’URSS vaincue en Afghanistan semblait à genoux. Mais avec le nouveau siècle est venue l’expansion de la nouvelle technologie, et avec elle, la possibilité d’être auteur sans plus devoir passer par un journal ou une maison d’édition, avec l’apparition des blogs et, pas toujours pour le meilleur, des réseaux sociaux. Et qui dit nouveaux moyens d’expression dit nouvelle peur pour les régimes répressifs, et avec cette nouvelle peur, de nouveaux motifs de répression. Publié sur papier ou autopublié sur Internet, qu’importe aujourd’hui, vous risquez tout autant de payer cher le moindre de vos mots contre qui veut régner en imposant le silence.

Active au sein du Conseil des Droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies, l’Association of World Citizens ne s’est jamais limitée pour autant à cette seule enceinte genevoise, ayant toujours porté la défense des Droits Humains partout où elle le peut.

En Tunisie où, depuis un an, les initiatives du Président Kaïs Saied mettent à mal l’héritage de la Révolution de janvier 2011, le journaliste Salah Attia en a fait les frais pour avoir dénoncé ces dérives autoritaires en direct sur la chaîne Al Jazeera. Jugé sur ce seul fondement par des militaires en uniforme, il s’est retrouvé détenu à la prison de Mornaguia près de Tunis. Dans la Libye voisine qui n’a jamais su trouver sa voie nouvelle depuis la révolte populaire contre Mu’ammar Kadhafi, hélas devenue intervention militaire franco-britannique aux motifs plus qu’incertains, c’est Mansour Atti, journaliste lui aussi, mais également blogueur et dirigeant local du Croissant-Rouge, qui fut enlevé en juin 2021 par un groupe armé réputé proche des Forces armées libyennes.

Toujours en Afrique mais plus au sud, dans la Corne du continent, en Somalie où l’État central ne s’est jamais vraiment reconstitué depuis 1990 et la désagrégation du pays après la fin de la dictature de Mohamed Siad Barré, un journaliste indépendant nommé Kilwe Adan Farah fut arrêté en décembre 2020 dans la région autonome de facto du Puntland où il venait de couvrir une manifestation contre les autorités locales. Jugé lui aussi par un tribunal militaire, il fut condamné à trois ans d’emprisonnement pour avoir «répandu des fausses nouvelles et incité au mépris envers l’État». A ce jour, il purge encore sa peine.

Kilwe Adan Farah

Le terrorisme jihadiste en France et ailleurs l’a prouvé : ce qui menaçait Salman Rushdie n’a jamais disparu, tout au plus changé de forme. Mais aujourd’hui, là où un interdit fanatique peut toujours frapper quelqu’un qui s’exprime par l’écrit, l’interdit peut venir également des forces armées dans un pays cherchant sa voie constitutionnelle et, dans le meilleur des cas, démocratique. Quitte à oser vouloir faire croire qu’un écrit public dénué de toute intention malveillante peut menacer un pays tout entier de ne jamais (re)trouver une vie libre et paisible.

En France, en Grande-Bretagne et aux Etats-Unis, mais bien sûr pas seulement, la loi permet de saisir la justice contre un écrit public et obtenir soit réparation si l’on est visé à titre personnel, soit condamnation pénale dans le cas d’un abus de la liberté d’expression internationalement reconnaissable comme tel, par exemple à travers la jurisprudence de la Cour européenne des Droits de l’Homme. Et ce sera toujours, dans ces trois pays et partout ailleurs dans le monde, une infaillible indication du respect de l’État de droit par opposition à la loi de la jungle ou à celle du talion. Quiconque se reconnaît Citoyen du Monde doit défendre sans faille ces principes, sachant que là où un écrit peut valoir la mort, il n’est aucune responsabilité envers sa communauté locale, a fortiori envers la communauté humaine mondiale, que l’on puisse entendre assumer à moins que ce ne soit, au bout du compte, en vain.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

Garry Davis: “And Now the People Have the Floor”

In Being a World Citizen, Human Rights, Migration, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, United States, World Law on July 24, 2022 at 6:14 PM

By René Wadlow

Garry Davis, who died on July 24, 2013, in Burlington, Vermont, was often called “World Citizen N°1”. The title was not strictly exact as the organized world citizen movement began in England in 1937 with Hugh J. Schonfield and his Commonwealth of World Citizens, followed in 1938 by the creation jointly in the USA and England of the World Citizen Association. However, it was Garry Davis in Paris in 1948-1949 who reached a wide public and popularized the term “world citizen”.

Garry Davis was the start of what I call “the second wave of world citizen action”. The first wave was in 1937-1940 as an effort to counter the narrow nationalism represented by Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and militaristic Japan. This first world citizen wave of action did not prevent the Second World War, but it did highlight the need for a wider cosmopolitan vision. Henri Bonnet of the League of Nations’ Committee for Intellectual Co-operation and founder of the United States (U. S.) branch of the World Citizen Association became an intellectual leader of the Free French Forces led by General de Gaulle from London during the War. Bonnet was a leader in the founding of UNESCO — the reason it is based in Paris — and UNESCO’s emphasis on understanding among cultures.

The Second Wave of world citizen action in which Garry Davis was a key figure lasted from 1948 to 1950 — until the start of the war in Korea and the visible start of the Cold War, although, in reality, the Cold War began in 1945 when it became obvious that Germany and Japan would be defeated. The victorious Great Powers began moving to solidify their positions. The Cold War lasted from 1945 until 1991 with the end of the Soviet Union. During the 1950-1991 period, most world citizen activity was devoted to preventing a war between the USA and the USSR, working largely within other arms control/disarmament associations and not under a “world citizen flag.”

The Third Wave of world citizen action began in 1991 with the end of the Cold War and the rise again of narrow nationalist movements as seen in the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. The Association of World Citizens with its emphasis on conflict resolution, human rights, ecologically-sound development, and understanding among cultures is the moving force of this Third Wave.

The two-year Second Wave was an effort to prevent the Cold War which might have become a hot World War Three. In 1948, the Communist Party took over Czechoslovakia, in what the West called a “coup”, more accurately a cynical manipulation of politics. The coup was the first example of a post-1945 change in the East-West balance of power and started speculation on other possible changes as in French Indochina or in 1950 in Korea. 1948 was also the year that the UN General Assembly was meeting in Paris. The United Nations (UN) did not yet have a permanent headquarters in New York, so the General Assembly first met in London and later in Paris. All eyes, especially those of the media, were fixed on the UN. No one was sure what the UN would become, whether it would be able to settle the growing political challenges or “go the way of the League of Nations”.

Garry Davis, born in 1921, was a young Broadway actor in New York prior to the entry of the U. S. in the World War in 1941. Garry Davis was a son of Meyer Davis, a well-known popular band leader who often performed at society balls and was well known in the New York-based entertainment world. Thus, it was fairly natural that his son would enter the entertainment world, as a “song and dance” actor in the musical comedies of those days. Garry had studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, a leading technology institution.

When the U. S. entered the war, Garry joined the Army Air Force and became a bomber pilot of the B-17, stationed in England with a mission to bomb targets in Germany. Garry’s brother had been killed in the Allied invasion of Italy, and there was an aspect of revenge in bombing German military targets until he was ordered to bomb German cities in which there were civilians.

At the end of the War and back as an actor in New York, he felt a personal responsibility toward helping to create a peaceful world and became active with world federalists who were proposing the creation of a world federation with powers to prevent war, largely based on the U. S. experience of moving from a highly decentralized government under the Articles of Confederation to the more centralized Federal Government structured by the Constitution.

At the time, Garry had read a popular book among federalists, The Anatomy of Peace by the Hungarian-born Emery Reves. Reves had written “We must clarify principles and arrive at axiomatic definitions as to what causes war and what creates peace in human society.” If war was caused by a state-centric nationalism as Reves, who had observed closely the League of Nations, claimed, then peace requires a move away from nationalism. As Garry wrote in his autobiography My Country is the World (1) “In order to become a citizen of the entire world, to declare my prime allegiance to mankind, I would first have to renounce my United States nationality. I would secede from the old and declare the new”.

In May 1948, knowing that the UN General Assembly was to meet in Paris in September and earlier the founding meeting of the international world federalists was to be held in Luxembourg, he went to Paris. There he renounced his U. S. citizenship and gave up his passport. However, he had no other identity credentials in a Europe where the police can stop you and demand that you provide identity papers. So he had printed a “United World Citizen International Identity Card” though the French authorities listed him as “Apatride d’origine américaine”. Paris after the War was filled with “apatride” people, but there was probably no other “d’origine américaine”.

Giving up U. S. citizenship and a passport which many of the refugees in Paris would have wanted at any price was widely reported in the press and brought him many visitors. Among the visitors was Robert Sarrazac (né Soulage), a career military officer who had been active in the French Resistance and shared the same view of the destructive nature of narrow nationalism and the need to develop a world citizen ideology. Garry was also joined by the young Guy Marchand who would later play an important role in structuring the world citizen movement.

As the French police was not happy with people with no valid identity papers wondering around, Garry Davis moved to the large modern Palais de Chaillot with its terraces which had become “world territory” for the duration of the UN General Assembly. He set up a tent and waited to see what the UN would do to promote world citizenship. In the meantime, Robert Sarrazac who had many contacts from his resistance activities set up a “Conseil de Solidarité” formed of people admired for their independence of thought, not linked to a particular political party. The Conseil was led by Albert Camus, novelist and writer for newspapers, André Breton, the Surrealist poet, l’Abbé Pierre and Emmanuel Mounier, editor of Esprit, both Catholics of highly independent spirits as well as Henri Roser, a Protestant minister and secretary for French-speaking countries of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Davis and his advisors felt that world citizenship should not be left outside the General Assembly hall but had to be presented inside as a challenge to the ordinary way of doing things, “an interruption”. Thus, it was planned that Garry Davis from the visitors’ balcony would interrupt the UN proceedings to read a short text; Robert Sarrazac had the same speech in French, and Albert Crespey, son of a chief from Togo had his talk written out in his Togolese language.

In the break after a long Yugoslav intervention, Davis stood up. Father Montecland, “priest by day and world citizen by night” said in a booming voice “And now the people have the floor!” Davis said “Mister Chairman and delegates: I interrupt in the name of the people of the world not represented here. Though my words may be unheeded, our common need for world law and order can no longer be disregarded.” After this, the security guards moved in, but Robert Sarrazac on the other side of the Visitors’ Gallery continued in French, followed by a plea for human rights in Togolese. Later, near the end of the UN Assembly in Paris, the General Assembly adopted without an opposition vote, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which became the foundation of world citizens’ efforts to advance world law.

Dr. Herbert Evatt of Australia was the President of the UN General Assembly in 1948. He was an internationalist who had worked during the San Francisco Conference creating the UN to limit the powers of the Permanent Five of the Security Council. Evatt met with Davis a few days after the “interruption” and encouraged Davis to continue to work for world citizenship, even if disrupting UN meetings was not the best way.

Shortly after highlighting world citizenship at the UN, Garry Davis went to the support of Jean Moreau, a young French world citizen and active Catholic, who as a conscientious objector to military service, had been imprisoned in Paris as there was no law on alternative service in France at the time. Davis camped in front of the door of the military prison at the Rue du Cherche-Midi in central Paris. As Davis wrote “When it is clearly seen that citizens of other nations are willing to suffer for a man born in France claiming the moral right to work for and love his fellow man rather than be trained in killing him, as Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tsu, Tolstoy, St Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, and other great thinkers and religious leaders have taught, the world may begin to understand that the conscience of Man itself rises above all artificially-created divisions and fears.” (2). Others joined Davis in camping on the street. Garry Davis worked closely on this case with Henri Roser and Andre Trocmé of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Davis was put in jail for camping on the city street and also for not having valid identification documents, but his place on the street was filled with others, including a German pacifist, an act of courage so soon after the end of the War. It took another decade before alternative service in France was put into place, but Davis’ action had led to the issue being widely raised in France, and the link between world citizenship and non-violent action clearly drawn.

Garry Davis was never an “organizational man”. He saw himself as a symbol in action. After a year in France with short periods in Germany, he decided in July 1949 to return to the U. S. As he wrote at the time “I have often said that it is not my intention to head a movement or to become president of an organization. In all honesty and sincerity, I must define the limit of my abilities as being a witness to the principle of world unity, defending to the limit of my ability the Oneness of man and his immense possibilities on our planet Earth, and fighting the fears and hatreds created artificially to perpetuate narrow and obsolete divisions which lead and have always led to armed conflict.”

Perhaps by the working of karma, on the ship taking him to the USA, he met Dr. P. Natarajan, a south Indian religious teacher in the Upanishadic tradition. Natarajan had lived in Geneva and Paris and had a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Paris. He and Davis became close friends, and Davis spent some time in India at the center created by Natarajan who stressed the development of the inner life. “Meditation consists of bringing all values inside yourself” was a motto of Natarajan.

It was at the home of Harry Jakobsen, a follower of Natarajan, on Schooly Mountain, New Jersey that I first met Garry Davis in the early 1950s. I was also interested in Indian philosophy, and someone put me in contact with Jakobsen. However, I had joined what was then the Student World Federalists in 1951 so I knew of the Paris adventures of Garry. After that, we would meet in Geneva, France, and the U. S. from time to time.

Some world federalists and world citizens thought that his renunciation of U. S. citizenship in 1948 confused people. The more organization-minded world federalists preferred to stress that one can be a good citizen of a local community, a national state as well as a world citizen. However, Davis’s and my common interest in Asian thought was always a bond beyond any tactical disagreements.

Today, it is appropriate to cite the oft-used Indian image of the wave as an aspect of the one eternal ocean of energy. Each individual is both an individual wave and at the same time part of the impersonal source from which all comes and returns. Garry Davis as a wave has now returned to the broader ocean. He leaves us a continuing challenge writing “There is vital need now for wise and practical leadership, and the symbols, useful up to a point, must now give way to the men qualified for such leadership.”

Notes

1) Garry Davis, My Country is the World (London: Macdonald Publishers, 1962)

2) Garry Davis, Over to Pacifism: A Peace News Pamphlet (London: Peace News, 1949)

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

Horace Alexander: Unofficial Diplomacy and Mediation

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, NGOs, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II on June 6, 2022 at 3:12 PM

By René Wadlow

At this time of increased tensions and armed conflicts in different parts of the world, it is useful to recall the positive possibilities of unofficial diplomacy. Unofficial diplomats recognize that the suspicions of government officials are a major hurdle to overcome and that they must emphasize their impartiality and independence from governments. Preparing the way for official policy changes or for improved interstate relations is a slow-building evolutionary process. Personal contacts across borders hold the potential for influencing the knowledge and attitudes of those involved as well as the ability to gain information.

Horace Alexander (1889-1989), the British Quaker and friend of Mahatma Gandhi, is a good example of the unofficial diplomat and mediator. Horace Alexander was born in an English Quaker family. His father was a lawyer deeply involved in peace efforts and in opposing the opium trade active between India and China. Horace Alexander was a Cambridge University graduate who went on to teach international relations at Woodbroke, an adult education center run by Quakers. Alexander was very active in efforts to support the League of Nations.

In 1926 and 1927 there was increased agitation and repression in India as the Indian National Congress became increasingly active. Thus in 1928 Horace Alexander was sent to India by the British Quakers to see if relations between the Vice Roy Lord Irwin and Mahatma Gandhi could be improved. Alexander saw the spiritual dimension of Gandhi but also his political impact and suggested to the British government that Gandhi be invited to the Roundtable on Indian politics which was to be held in London in 1931.

Alexander developed close relations with Gandhi and divided his time between India and England. He was active in relief work during the famine in Bengal in 1943-1944 and was active with the Indian National Congress during the negotiations which led to independence in 1947, but he sensed the birth pangs of the creation of the two states of India and Pakistan and the terrible days of partition when fighting between religious communities took a deadly toll in human life and spirit.

While he was with Gandhi in India, seeing the growing divide between Hindus and Muslims, he created the Fellowship of Friends of Truth. As he wrote “The basis and goal of the Fellowship of Truth will be a common striving toward fuller knowledge of the Truth that is God. Members will commit themselves to learn with and from one another of the things that are eternal, through common acts of quiet worship and meditation and through other forms of communion with God and man.” Horace Alexander lived his later years in the United States and died at the age of 100.

Unofficial diplomacy rarely creates a breakthrough as situations can be completely blocked and even minimal proposals are unacceptable at the time. However, small steps can be useful if taken in the right direction. Unofficial Diplomacy, which is increasingly called Track II diplomacy, is growing in importance and merits support.

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.

******************************************

Note

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

******************************************

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

Letting the Soul of Europe Drown on the Shores of Libya

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Human Rights, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on July 26, 2021 at 6:15 PM

By Bernard J. Henry

Was Libya ever a part of the 2011 Arab Spring? If the term defines solely the ouster of a dictator who had been there for decades, yes, it was. After 41 years of autocratic rule, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was irreversibly overthrown. If the Arab Spring also means the transformation of nonviolent protests into all-out armed conflict, then again, Libya qualifies as a people’s revolution, following the path successfully taken by Tunisia, that ended up as a civil war between the Jamahiriya, ruled from Tripoli by Gaddafi, and the Qatar-backed National Transitional Council based in Benghazi. Ultimately, if it means frustration at the outcome of the fight, then Libya was indeed a part of the 2011 Arab Spring, remembering how unbearably long it took the rival factions there to create a Government of National Unity, after years of competition between two, sometimes three, would-be national leaders.

Another way that Libya – tragically – qualifies as part of the 2011 Arab Spring is the ever-growing phenomenon of harraga. In Algerian Arabic, harrag means “the one who burns something”, and in Algeria where French is an unofficial second language, overlooking a red light while driving a car is “brûler un feu rouge”, literally “burning a red light”. When harrag thus refers to anyone breaching a legal restriction, its plural harraga has come to mean “those who burn the border” – migrants who leave the country without permission, either from their home government or the authorities of the country they are traveling to, in both cases risking their very lives.

One reason the West reacted sometimes coolly to the end of decades-long dictatorships in North Africa was that, while in power, Ben Ali, Gaddafi, and Mubarak enforced strict regulations on migration to the northern bank of the Mediterranean, keeping their respective peoples away from both personal freedom and European border posts altogether. The fall of each of the three regimes meant the end of a controlled emigration that used to suit European needs nicely, and ten years later, one of the three countries stands out as the most graphic and tragic embodiment of the harraga phenomenon – Libya.

Yet Libyans do not make up the bulk of those vowing to reach Europe at any cost. Those vowing to reach Europe from Libya are migrants and refugees from other countries in Africa, with some foreign residents who had lived in Libya for many years but are now feeling insecure and want to move on abroad. Others still, coming from Niger, Chad, Sudan, Egypt, and Tunisia, do want to settle down in Libya. But for those whose destination is Europe, when failure does not come by drowning into the Mediterranean, it means a fate some would deem even worse.

Inhumanity in the name of the European Union

According to a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), North Africa is now offering three routes for migration to Europe – the Western Route from Morocco into Spain, the Eastern Route from Turkey into Greece, and the Central Route from Libya into Italy. Unsurprisingly, the Central Route is the most active, preferred by many refugees and migrants. They come from West, East, and Central Africa, some of them fleeing extreme poverty back home and the others running from war and persecution. Although Europe has the oldest and best-functioning human rights court in the world, nostalgic as it is of its unenviable dictator friends in North Africa, it will not lift a finger to help these people yearning for the freedom and dignity that Europeans enjoy them every day.

In a newly released report entitled ‘No One Will Look for You’: Forcibly Returned from Sea to Abusive Detention in Libya, Amnesty International explains how “men, women and children intercepted while crossing the Mediterranean Sea and forcibly returned to detention centers in Libya” get subjected to an array of human rights violations in detention centers, such as “torture and other ill-treatment, cruel and inhuman detention conditions, extortion and forced labor” as well as “invasive, humiliating and violent strip-searches”, when not rape.

The organization sheds light on the role played since 2020 by the Libyan Government’s Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) in sexual abuses against women.

But, in the words of Amnesty’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Eltahawy, “The report also highlights the ongoing complicity of European states that have shamefully continued to enable and assist Libyan coastguards in capturing people at sea and forcibly returning them to the hellscape of detention in Libya, despite knowing full well the horrors they will endure.” Consequently, Amnesty urges “European states to suspend cooperation on migration and border control with Libya”.

Blocking unauthorized migration from North Africa to Europe was one thing, when many in Western countries deemed Arab peoples unable to sustain democracy, thus supporting dictators who both reined in their constituents at home and deterred them from seeking a better life, let alone freedom, abroad. Ten years later, as a stifled democracy proves unable to protect Tunisia from a deadly wave of Covid-19 and Egypt appears locked in an absolute monarchy in all but name, Libya has set a course on the abandonment of all standards of human decency, not just in the treatment of prisoners but in knowingly punishing people just for seeking a new life on the other side of the Mediterranean.

The European ideal betrayed

It is no secret that European leaders, however progressive and opposed to extreme right populists they claim to be, have long renounced any form of firmness toward these. No more dismissing the far right by comparing it to pre-World War II fascist movements; its trademark xenophobic rhetoric has now become trendy. Leaders who once blasted the extreme right can now be heard calling for tighter border controls, making life harder for those immigrants who do get admitted, and demoting asylum from an internationally recognized right to a temporary commodity granted at the pleasure of the state.

Denmark, once hailed as a model Scandinavian social democracy with a liberal line of thought, is now considering sending Syrian refugees back to their war-torn homeland and “outsourcing” other asylum-seekers to Rwanda, a distant central African country with no geographical, historical, or other ties to Denmark whatsoever. In Britain, Home Secretary Priti Patel has proposed a host of nonsensical, dangerous measures to keep undocumented migrants and asylum seekers from reaching the country, such as the creation of an offshore processing center in … Rwanda. Not the finest tributes to the scores of Rwandans trying to flee the ongoing genocide back in 1994 one might think of.

Once conservative, moderate, liberal, or progressive democrats, the leaders of Europe have now joined the extreme right if only in its crusade to spread an insane fear of millions of Arab and African Muslim migrants taking over Europe, replacing the European Convention on Human Rights with the Sharia, imposing the Islamic veil on all women, and flogging to death anyone who swallows a drop of alcohol. So much for the European dream of Konrad Adenauer and Winston Churchill, Frenchmen Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, and Italians Alcide de Gasperi and Altiero Spinelli – the latter’s name being part also of the history of the World Citizen and World Federalist movements.

As the motto of the European Union (EU) shifts from “United in Diversity” to “Freedom within, Fortress without”, Libya stands out as the most graphic, horrendous illustration of EU duplicity in championing human values at home, especially when opposing a Donald Trump in the USA or brutal leaders in China and Nicaragua, while condoning the total loss of humanity in North Africa where Libyan government agents keep its borders safe from – imagined – hordes of invaders poised to feast on Europe’s riches and force an Al-Qaida- or ISIS-like reactionary vision of Islam on all Europeans. That too is a sign, possibly the most important one, that when it comes to migration, European leaders are now being guided by the extreme right’s ideology, pretending to use facts but being really based on fantasy.

Europe must continue to stand for hope

It is no fantasy that people are dying at sea while trying to reach Europe. It is no fantasy that others, also trying to reach Europe through the Mediterranean, are getting caught by the Libyan authorities and forcibly brought back to the country. It is no fantasy that, held in detention centers even though they have no crime to answer for, people are ill-treated, beaten, raped, all but killed, just because they tried to get to Europe. It is no fantasy that as many blatant violations of the European Convention on Human Rights are being committed while the EU, at best, turns a blind eye and, at worst, lends its support.

Regional integration as Europe has known it since World War II, including EU expansion after the end of the Warsaw Pact, cannot be allowed to result in such barbarity. Setting such a bad example will only be detrimental to the ongoing experiments toward regional integration in other parts of the world, obviously starting with Africa. Ultimately, the very idea of World Citizenship will be endangered too, should some raise the possibility of supranational integration, and accordingly global governance of any kind, leading to such brutal, inhuman conducts of that nature with literally nowhere to run.

Europe as we know it was born among the ruins of World War II. Neither its regional institutions nor its national governments, let alone its governmental partners overseas, can possibly let it drown on the shores of Libya, where its leaders from Rome up to Copenhagen are making the EU lose all honor, letting down both those in Libya hoping for a better future and their own citizens at home by nurturing them in fear when they should be taught pride, courage, and solidarity, both toward one another and with others in distress at the doorsteps of the Union.

Bernard J. Henry is the External Relations Officer of the Association of World Citizens.

Assault on Religious Liberty: July 20, 1937

In Being a World Citizen, Human Rights, NGOs, Religious Freedom, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on July 20, 2021 at 3:17 PM

By René Wadlow

The Nazi Government of Germany had first moved against the Jews, considered as both a racial and a religious group. The Jews had long been a target of the Nazi movement and the attack on them came as no surprise. However, the July 20, 1937 banning of the theosophical movement and of others «theosophically related» in the Nazi ideology was a turning point in Nazi repression.

On July 20, 1937, the Theosophical Society and the related Anthroposophical Society which had been founded by Rudolf Steiner who had been president of the German section of the Theosophical Society were banned. The banning order was signed by Reichsführer Reinhard Heydrich who warned that “The continuation and new foundation of this as well as the foundation of disguised succession organizations is prohibited. Simultaneously I herewith state because of the law about confiscation of property hostile to people and state that the property of the abovementioned organizations was used or intended for the promotion of intentions hostile to people and state.” Thus, all offices and buildings were confiscated.

At the time there was little organized protest. The League of Nations, while upholding tolerance and freedom of thought in general had no specific declaration on freedom of religion and no institutional structures to deal with protests. Now, the United Nations (UN) has a specific Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief of November 25, 1981 which builds upon Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion : this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship or observance.” As with all UN Instruments relating to freedom of religion, Article 18 represents a compromise. One of its achievements was the inclusion of the terms “thought” and “conscience” which quietly embraced atheists and non-believers. The most divisive phrase, however, was “freedom to change one’s religion”.

The Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief took nearly 20 years of difficult negotiations to draft. Preparations for the Declaration had begun in 1962. One of the most difficult areas in drafting the Declaration concerned the rights of the child to have “access to education in the matter of religion or belief in accordance with the wishes of his parents and shall not be compelled to receive teaching on religion or belief against the wishes of his parents or legal guardians, the best interests of the child being the guiding principle.”

The Declaration goes on to state that “The child shall be protected from any form of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. He shall be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, respect for freedom of religion or belief of others, and in full consciousness that his energy and talents should be devoted to the services of his fellow men.”

The Declaration highlights that there can be no doubt that freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief and the elimination of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief are of a fundamental character and derive from the inherent dignity and worth of the human person.

The gradual evolution of UN norms on the issue of religious liberty has been a complex process and is often a reflection of bilateral relations among Member States. This was especially true during the 1980s – the last decade of the USA-USSR Cold War. However, the end of the Cold War did not end religious tensions as an important factor in internal and international conflicts.

The 1981 Declaration cannot be implemented by UN bodies alone. Effective implementation also requires efforts by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs play a vital role in the development of the right to freedom of religion or belief, especially by advancing the cause of those still struggling to achieve this right.

Thus, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) had been active in the late 1970s when the UN Commission on Human Rights moved from New York to Geneva on the formulation of the 1981 Declaration. Since then, the AWC has worked closely with the Special Rapporteurs on Religious Liberty of the Commission (now the Human Rights Council). The AWC has also raised publicly in the Commission certain specific situations and violations. The AWC stresses the need for sound research and careful analysis. Citizens of the World have an important role to play in bringing spiritual and ethical insights to promote reconciliation and healing in many parts of the world.

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

The Day of Mother Earth: Living in Harmony with Nature

In Being a World Citizen, Environmental protection, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 22, 2021 at 8:24 PM

By René Wadlow

International Mother Earth Day on April 22 each year was established by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2009. Its aim is to promote living in harmony with Nature and to achieve a just balance among the economic, social, and environmental needs of present and future generations. The concept of living in harmony with Nature was seen by the UN delegates as a way “to improve the ethical basis of the relationship between humankind and our planet.” It is the biosphere to which we belong. It is becoming the common heritage of mankind which we must defend.

The term “Mother Earth” is an expression used in different cultures to symbolize the inseparable bonds between humans and Nature. Pachamama is the term used in the Andean cultures of South America. The Earth and the ecosystem are our home. We need to care for it as a mother is supposed to care for her children and the children to show love and gratitude in return. However, we know from all the folk tales of the evil stepmother as well as the records of psychoanalytic sessions that mother-children relations are not always relations of love, care and gratitude. Thus, to really live in harmony with Nature requires deep shifts in values and attitudes, not just “sustainable development” projects.

The UN began its focus on ecological issues with the preparations for the 1972 Conference in Stockholm. However, the concept of living in harmony with Nature is relatively new as a UN political concept. Yet it is likely to be increasingly a theme for both governmental policy making and individual action.

As Rodney Collin wrote in a letter, “It is extraordinary how the key-word of harmony occurs everywhere now, comes intuitively to everyone’s lips when they wish to express what they hope for. But I feel that we have hardly yet begun to study its real meaning. Harmony is not an emotion, an effect. It is a whole elaborate science, which for some reason has only been fully developed in the realm of sound. Science, psychology and even religion are barely touching it as yet.” (1)

Resolutions in the UN General Assembly can give a sense of direction. They indicate that certain ideas and concepts are ready to be discussed at the level of governments. However, a resolution is not yet a program of action or even a detailed framework for discussion. “Living in harmony with Nature” is at that stage on the world agenda. As Citizens of the World, we strive to develop an integrated program of action.

Note
1) His letters have been assembled after his death by his wife into a book:
Rodney Collin, The Theory of Conscious Harmony (Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 1958)

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

U. Thant (1909-1974): Member of the Human Race

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, United Nations on April 13, 2021 at 7:22 PM

By René Wadlow

I am always conscious of the fact that I am a member of the human race. This consciousness prompts me to work for the great human synthesis which is the implicit goal of the World Organization I had the privilege of serving … Thus I am making a plea for a dual allegiance. This implies an open acceptance of belonging to the human race as well as to our local community and nation … I believe that the mark of the truly educated person facing the 21st century is that he feels himself to be a World Citizen.
U. Thant in View from the UN (New York: Doubleday, 1979)

At a time when the face of Burmese leadership is that of the current military dictator General Min Aung Hlaing, best known for his campaign against the Rohingya, it is useful to recall another style of Burmese leadership, that of U. Thant, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General from 1961 to 1971.

U. Thant was the third UN Secretary-General. This gentle Burmese Buddhist was regarded as unremarkable which was exactly what the major powers, led by the USA. and the USSR, wanted after the lightning bolt of the second Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold.

The Secretary-General is accorded a central role – by the UN Charter, by history, and by the trust placed in him by Member States. With no enforcement capacity, the Secretary-General is armed only with the tools of his own making. States would generally prefer a good housekeeper who does not initiate, innovate, or otherwise threaten their equilibrium of the status quo. But U. Thant’s self-effacing nature belied his moral courage and inner strength. Those who voted for him were later to find themselves surprised.

The fullest statement of U. Thant’s beliefs and practices is his talk on “The Role of Religious Convictions” at the Third International Teach-in at Toronto, Canada in 1967. The teach-in was part of an effort at conflict resolution in the 1963-1975 USA-led Vietnam war. The USA had worked so that the war in Vietnam would be discussed as little as possible at the UN and especially that the UN would take no action. This left U. Thant highly frustrated. As a Burmese, he knew Indochina well, and as UN Secretary-General, he believed that the UN should be a leader in conflict resolution efforts worldwide. As the UN was unable to act officially, he gave support, both moral and intellectual, to religious efforts to mediate the Vietnam conflict. Thus, his statement to the Toronto teach-in stressed his Buddhist roots as some of the Vietnamese Buddhists were very active in conflict resolution efforts.

As a Buddhist, I was trained to be tolerant of everything except intolerance. I was brought up not only to develop the spirit of tolerance but also to cherish moral and spiritual qualities, especially modesty, humility, compassion and most important, to attain a certain degree of emotional equilibrium. I was taught to control my emotions through a process of concentration and meditation. Of course, being human, and not yet having reached the stage of arhat (enlightened being) I cannot completely “control” my emotions.

Among the teaching of the Buddha are four features of meditation, the primary purpose of which is the attainment of moral and spiritual excellence: metta (goodwill or kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), and upekka (equanimity or equilibrium).

A true Buddhist practices his metta (kindness) to all, without distinction – just as the sun shines on all, or the rain falls on all, without distinction. Metta embraces all being impartially and spontaneously, expecting nothing in return, not even appreciation. Metta is impersonal love or goodwill, the opposite of sensuous caring or a burning sensual fire that can turn into wrath, hatred, or revenge when not requited.

Karuna, the quality of compassion, is deeply rooted in the Buddhist concept of suffering. Human life is one of suffering, hence it is the duty of a good Buddhist to mitigate the suffering of others.

Mudita (sympathetic joy) can best be defined as one’s expression of sympathy with other people’s joy. The happiness of others generates happiness in the mind of a good Buddhist. The person who cultivates altruistic joy radiates it over everyone in his surroundings.

Upekka (equanimity) connotes the acquisition of a balance of mind whether in triumph or tragedy. This balance is achieved only as a result of deep insight into the nature of things, and primarily by contemplation and meditation. If one understands how unstable and impermanent all worldly conditions are, one learns to bear lightly the greatest misfortune or the greatest reward. To achieve upekka, one has to meditate. Buddhist meditation aims at cleansing the mind of impurities, such as ill will, hatred, and restlessness; it aims at cultivating such qualities as concentration, awareness, intelligence, confidence, and tranquility, leading finally to the attainment of the highest wisdom.

The highest wisdom is in little evidence on the part of the Burmese military these days. There is a real danger that military violence will provoke violence in return. Mediation efforts in the spirit outlined by U. Thant are urgently needed.

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

24 mars : La vérité est un Droit Humain

In Being a World Citizen, Democracy, Human Rights, Latin America, NGOs, Religious Freedom, Solidarity, Spirituality, Track II, United Nations on March 26, 2021 at 5:00 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

Trente-cinq ans déjà, en janvier dernier, que le chanteur français Daniel Balavoine trouvait la mort tragiquement lors du Paris-Dakar où il était présent non comme coureur, mais, fidèle à ses convictions telles qu’il les exprimait dans ses chansons, pour une opération humanitaire qu’il avait mise en place et voulait voir aboutir – littéralement, il l’aura payé de sa vie.

Dans ses chansons, Balavoine évoquait souvent les Droits Humains, le sous-développement, les atteintes à l’environnement et, bien sûr, le racisme, comme dans son dernier succès de son vivant, L’Aziza. A sa manière, il était un Citoyen du Monde au sens où le conçoit l’Association of World Citizens (AWC). Dans son album de 1983 intitulé Loin des yeux de l’Occident, il chantait le sort des femmes dans le Tiers Monde, comme l’on appelait alors le monde en développement, les écrivains emprisonnés par les dictatures militaires d’Amérique latine et, dans cette même région du monde, les Mères de la Place de Mai en Argentine. Depuis 1977, deuxième année de la dictature militaire dans le pays, ces mères de «disparus forcés» manifestent face au siège du gouvernement en demandant la vérité sur le sort des leurs. La junte au pouvoir les avait surnommées les «folles de la Place de Mai» pour les discréditer ; elle n’a ainsi fait que rendre leur cause mondialement célèbre.

Dans Revolución, dernière piste de Loin des yeux de l’Occident qui a pour titre le dernier vers de cette même chanson, Balavoine chantait ainsi d’elles :

«Comme on porte une couronne,

Elles ont la peur sur leur visage ruisselant,

Espérant la maldonne,

Elles frappent leur poitrine en défilant,

Pieusement questionnent :

‘Est-ce que disparus veut dire vivants ?’

Faut-il qu’elles pardonnent

Pour croire que leurs morts ne sont qu’absents ?»

Et c’est bien là toute la question, au-delà même des atteintes aux Droits Humains – la question de la vérité sur les sévices commis, cette vérité que l’on refuse aux proches des victimes et qui, dans notre monde d’aujourd’hui, est pourtant considérée en elle-même comme un Droit Humain à part entière.

Monseigneur Romero : le plomb d’une balle pour le plomb du silence

Chaque année, dans le langage technique et bureaucratique, comme l’ONU et les autres organisations intergouvernementales bien intentionnées mais lourdes à manier en ont le secret, le 24 mars est la «Journée internationale pour le droit à la vérité en ce qui concerne les violations flagrantes des droits de l’homme et pour la dignité des victimes», même s’il suffit d’en retenir quatre mots, les plus «essentiels» comme le dit ce monde de pandémie – droit à la vérité.

Si Balavoine chantait les disparitions forcées, violation des Droits Humains qui invisibilise par excellence le martyre infligé aux victimes et permet comme nulle autre le mensonge, y compris en sa forme la plus cruelle et cynique qu’est le silence, le droit à la vérité concerne tout type d’atteinte aux Droits Humains, qu’elle soit perpétrée derrière les épais murs d’un bâtiment gouvernemental ou sous les yeux de qui voit soudain un proche connaître le pire. Et bien sûr, de la même manière que Chamfort parlait au dix-huitième siècle d’une France où «on laisse en repos ceux qui mettent le feu, et on persécute ceux qui sonnent le tocsin», dans un pays qui attente au droit, quiconque le dénonce devient soi-même une victime de choix.

Monseigneur Óscar Romero

C’est en mémoire de l’une de ces victimes, qui avait osé élever la voix sur les atrocités dont il avait été témoin, que la Journée internationale a été proclamée. Il se nommait Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, il était Archevêque catholique romain de San Salvador, capitale du Salvador où la guerre civile opposait depuis peu le gouvernement conservateur et une guérilla marxiste. Lui aussi conservateur au départ, Monseigneur Romero reçoit un choc avec l’assassinat en 1977 d’un prêtre jésuite de son diocèse par un escadron de la mort pro-gouvernemental. Il devient alors un ardent défenseur des Droits Humains, notamment de ceux des paysans. Devenu un farouche dénonciateur des exactions de l’armée et des paramilitaires, il est abattu d’un coup de fusil en pleine poitrine le 24 mars 1980 alors qu’il dit sa messe dans un hôpital.

Le Salvador, autre pays dont avait parlé Balavoine dans Dieu que l’amour est triste, où il le rebaptisait le «San Salvador». Et autre exemple de la guerre aux Droits Humains que menaient à travers l’Amérique latine, du Guatemala jusqu’à la Terre de Feu, des dictatures civiles ou militaires auxquelles tout était bon pour réprimer la moindre opposition, cette guerre qui, en 1982, allait avoir pour victime collatérale à des milliers de kilomètres par-delà l’Atlantique, au Palais des Nations de Genève, Theo van Boven, chassé de la direction du Centre des Nations Unies pour les Droits de l’Homme pour avoir lui aussi élevé la voix trop fort, même si lui, au moins, y survécut et en témoigne encore à ce jour.

Le mensonge, première atteinte aux Droits Humains

Bien entendu, le temps a passé. Trente-cinq ans depuis le décès tragique de Daniel Balavoine. Plus de quarante ans depuis l’assassinat de Monseigneur Romero et bientôt tout autant depuis l’éviction de Theo van Boven. Mais le temps et l’évolution des atteintes aux Droits Humains n’ont fait, surtout depuis la Conférence de Vienne en 1993, que renforcer la victime, réelle ou potentielle, dans sa position centrale dès qu’il est question de défendre les Droits Humains ou, comme ici donc, de diffuser l’information sur les violations.

Theo van Boven

Ce qui est vrai pour les «folles de la Place de Mai», comme les appelaient avec mépris les «hommes des casernes» de Buenos Aires, est vrai pour toute autre situation où des droits sont violés et le secret est invoqué pour en cacher l’existence, ou la réalité au profit d’une version plus commode. Il n’est pas un type de violation des Droits Humains où le droit à la vérité ne s’avère crucial, même ce qui paraît évident pouvant receler une réalité plus occulte.

Qui a tué Lokman Slim au Liban ? Qui donne l’ordre de harceler Nidžara Ahmetašević, militante bosnienne de l’aide aux migrants à la frontière entre Croatie et Bosnie-Herzégovine ? Pourquoi Mohamed Gasmi, Défenseur des Droits Humains en Algérie, est-il poursuivi au pénal par son gouvernement sous les accusations calomnieuses, désormais devenues typiques des régimes autoritaires et des démocraties illibérales à travers le monde, d’avoir «eu des contacts avec des agents étrangers ennemis du pays» et «d’avoir comploté pour commettre des actes terroristes en sol national» ? Autant de questions auxquelles l’AWC s’est employée depuis le début de cette année à recueillir des réponses, autant que possible. Parce que le mensonge, à commencer par le silence qui en est la forme la plus venimeuse, est la première et la pire des atteintes aux Droits Humains.

Le droit à la vérité sur les atteintes aux Droits Humains n’est donc pas un pur vœu moral, pas plus qu’il ne doit demeurer un vœu pieux. Il est un véritable droit, dont la revendication n’est pas morale ou spirituelle mais bel et bien juridique, et au sens large du terme, politique. A défendre toujours, contre le mensonge et le silence des violateurs et contre les fausses vérités des tenants du complotisme et du confusionnisme sur Internet et ailleurs de par le monde.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

%d bloggers like this: