Archive for January, 2010

A POP STAR, A CITIZEN… AND AN ADVOCATE WITH PASSION Singer, Shakira speaks out at the Oxford Union on the benefits of education for ALL!

January 26, 2010


Singer, Shakira speaks out at the Oxford Union on the benefitsĀ  of education for ALL!


Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll
Tags: Singer, Shakira, Education, Telegraph Group, NZ Herald

Adressing Oxford’s students with a pasionate speech in which she envisaged a future in which 30,000 teachers, instead of 30,000 soldiers might be sent to Afghanistan.

“It’s not about charity. Its about human investment. The best strategy to fight poverty, to prevent illness, to improve agriculture and decrease malnutrition, decrease child labour and decrease sex trafficking, is access to education.

“There are 75 million kids who don’t receive an education, 226 million who don’t have access to secondary school. The children are the foundation in a house, and if you don’t build strong foundations, you will spend your lives trying to fix problems that will arise.”

“I used to write political and social songs, because I was trying to find a vehicle to express all these thoughts and ideas. When I write, my subconscious finds its way to the surface. It’s not an intelectual process, it’s more organic.”

Telegraph Group Ltd (as published in the New Zealand Herald, Jan 2010)


Bitter enemies learn to live again in harmony

January 22, 2010

Bitter enemies learn to live again in harmony
By Andrew Buncombe
9:33 AM Thursday Dec 31, 2009
SRI LANKA: Workshops teach new generation to trust again after decades of civil war
Learning to trust people from other communities is a challenge for many Sri Lankans who have lived through decades of conflict. Photo / AP
It was the simplest of scenes and yet it was utterly remarkable. In the swimming pool of a Sri Lankan hotel, a dozen or so young men were playing and splashing and generally horsing around.
To the casual observer their antics may not have warranted a second glance. Yet the young men laughing together in the pool represented the different religious and ethnic elements that constitute Sri Lankan society, a society that has for decades been torn apart by war, anger and discrimination.
“Before, we never had the chance to mix,” said 23-year-old Amila, a Sinhalese Buddhist from Sri Lanka’s central province.
“I think most of my community will be happy to learn about this and to know we are breaking down barriers.”
The young student was one of several dozen young men and women brought to this hotel, set deep in the jungle close to Polonnaruwa, as part of a series of inter-faith and inter-community workshops organised by activists looking to bring about reconciliation and understanding.
The workshops have involved religious leaders from the different communities, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian, and are designed to suggest ways of working together to solve common problems.
It is the most challenging of tasks. For more than three decades, Sri Lanka has been ravaged by a bitter civil war between Tamil separatists and the Government, dominated by the Sinhala Buddhist majority. In addition to taking upwards of 90,000 lives, the conflict has created considerable barriers between the different communities, isolating some and rewarding others. For many Tamils, the sense of discrimination and suffering is unending.
Many people – including all the young people invited to Polonnaruwa – have grown up knowing nothing but war. They were born in conflict, raised in conflict and their outlooks and opportunities have been shaped by the daily realities of war – of suicide bombers, the deaths of relatives, roadblocks and security checks.
Susantharan, 22, a Hindu Tamil from south of Batticaloa on the east coast, told how the rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which once controlled a large swath of the north and east of the country, demanded that Tamil families provide sons and daughters to fight.
“Some of my cousins were killed during the conflict,” he said.
Amila told how, in turn, the government forces regularly recruited in his district. While there was no conscription, young men were encouraged to sign up. Eight of his friends did so and one was killed. Some of his relatives who became soldiers lost their limbs.
“If a soldier was killed, most of the time the body would be brought back to the relatives,” he said. “But sometimes the family might just be told he had become a martyr.”
The struggle to create trust is being undertaken by the Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation, a Colombo-based organisation that is supported by the charity Peace Direct.
Over two years, the organisation has worked individually with the various groups, trying to encourage an awareness of other communities and a realisation that most of the inter-community problems are systemic rather than the result of individuals.
In this last part of the process, the different religious and ethnic groups have been brought together, to develop trust and dialogue and finally to work towards solutions. The process has been carried out independently of the Government.
The organisation’s co-founder, Dishani Jayaweera, said it had stressed two themes – peace and co-existence. Realising its effort can only be a grass-roots process, the group has targeted religious leaders and the youth.
She hopes that once the participants return home to their communities, they will retain the insights they have gathered.
And it is not just young men who are taking part in the workshop. A group of 10 women from across Sri Lanka, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian, reveal how the workshops have given them a rare chance to meet and mingle with other communities.
Shanti, a young Sinhalese Buddhist from Anuradhapura, told how the war had created distrust between neighbours.
“In our area there are some villages that have separate communities. There was always suspicion and fear that they [the Tamil community] would be supporting the rebels. But now I think there is a chance to reduce suspicion,” she said.
VK Sivapalan Iyer is a Hindu priest from Batticaloa. He said the Hindu Tamil population had suffered as a result of unequal development and educational opportunities. Slowly, however, things have been improving and he said he was impressed by the commitment made by many of the Buddhist monks he had met.
“There has been a long link between Buddhism and Hinduism,” he said. “We had always hoped they would help us. Now they are doing so.”
The position of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist monks during the conflict differed from area to area. A tiny number, represented by the high-profile “war monk” Athurliye Rathana, actively encouraged the destruction of the rebels. The Reverend Dupali is a 51-year-old monk from Matara in the south of the country. He said he hoped the workshop would help build trust between communities to enable a long-lasting peace.
“I have always said that war is not a solution to the problem. If we are true Buddhists we cannot accept that,” he said. “Anyone who knows the truth about Buddhism cannot accept violence.”


Also as published on

Ahmed Zewail: The West and Islam need not be in conflict

January 12, 2010

Sourced from: Ahmed Zewail:

The West and Islam need not be in conflict We must not create barriers through concepts such as ‘clash of civilisations’

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Five years after September 11, we must ask, can western wars solve the so-called global conflict with the Islamic world? The answer, in my opinion, is no. A far better state of world peace would be achieved if the West would make a serious commitment to the just resolution of conflicts, and be genuinely involved, using a fraction of war costs, in building bridges to progress and peace with an understanding of the profound role of pride and faith in the lives of Muslims. The vast majority of Muslims are moderates working for a better future and seeking a peaceful life. As evidenced by past achievements, Islam in its pristine state is not a source of backwardness and violence. As recently as the September 11 event, the majority of Muslims were, as the rest of the world was, against its violence. However, if despair and humiliation continue in the population of more than one billion Muslims, the world will face increasing risks of conflicts and wars. Related articles Sir Menzies Campbell: New strategy must come through UN Iraq: the people have their say. And it’s bad news for Tony Blair The Big Question: How much faith should we have in political opinion polls? Pilot who lost her legs in Iraq takes on Republicans Leading article: An unpopular war, by any measure Steve Richards: We made a mistake going into Iraq, and we would make a mistake getting out now Search the news archive for more stories As a cultural product of both “East” and “West”, I do not believe there is a fundamental basis for a clash of civilisations, or that the West is the cause of all problems. Muslims are ultimately responsible for their plight. But the West has been more reactive than proactive toward the Muslim and Arab world, and has yet to implement a sustainable and equitable policy. For at least half a century Arabs have witnessed inconsistency in foreign policy, support of undemocratic regimes for the sake of securing resources and influence, and insensitivity to their culture and faith. Here, I would identify four guiding principles for a new perspective. The first, and essential, point is political. The West in general and the US in particular should chart a vastly different foreign policy with the aim of gaining the confidence and cooperation of Muslims for solving complex conflicts. In the Middle East, it is clear that peace will never be reached without solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A two-state solution must be found and enforced. The unsettled conflicts in Lebanon and Iraq and with Syria and Iran call for solutions at the roots of the problems: occupation and borders; prisoners, refugees, and their right of return; and skewed international policy. Force and isolation will not solve these problems. Instead we need a comprehensive policy of fairness and firmness, perhaps established in an international conference and enforced by the United Nations. Second, support for democracy in governance should be genuine. The West cannot and should not attempt to impose “Western democracy” and “Western values” by force on a culture proud of its heritage and faith. Many in the Muslim world admire the accomplishments and democratic values of the West, but people are mistrustful of “conditional democracy” and frightened of a culture now regrettably perceived to be of one of violence, sex, and other obscenities. Double standards and inconsistencies confuse people about Western intentions, and are used by totalitarian regimes to achieve their goals. Third, foreign aid should be redirected toward economic development. Traditionally, an aid package is distributed to many projects, the major portion of which is for military support. The number of projects involved and the lack of an effective monitoring system, not to mention the influence of bureaucracy and corruption, results in few successes. Directing aid toward the building of human capacity can be achieved through funding of innovative pilot programmes for enterprising individuals/groups in the free market, and invoking the expertise, and even the in-field labour, for the know-how. The use of aid programmes to support undemocratic regimes or groups is a grievous error. Finally, education and research should be modernised through partnership. I see great opportunities for the people of the Muslim and Arab world, not less than those realised by China or South Korea. The West can help in the modernisation of education and research and development. I believe it is possible with the available talent and funding from rich Arab countries, and the know-how from the West and other world powers, to transform higher education. Throughout history, people develop an interest in cultures and dialogues for the sake of mutual benefit. Even in one organ, the brain, 100 billion neurons work together to make a living human, and in our homes, cities, and countries we do the same. In an interdependent world, it is in the best interests of both the West and Muslim world to communicate through dialogues and to achieve global stability and mutual benefits from technology, commerce, energy, and cultures. We must not permit the creation of barriers through rhetorical concepts such as “clash of civilisations” or “conflict of religions”, which are of no value to the future of our world.

The author is the only Arab Muslim to receive the Nobel Prize in science, 1999 The ‘Independent, UK)