Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nonviolent Peaceforce

Mel Duncan, Minneapolis, is the founder of Nonviolent Peaceforce

Give Peace a Chance
by Charlie Leck

Tuesday evening we were the guests of friends who are significant supporters of the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP). I’m embarrassed to admit that I had not even heard of NP before that evening. I came away from the organization’s little fund-raiser quite impressed. In addition to making a small contribution, I determined that I would try to spread the word about them.

[Be sure to visit the web site of Nonviolent Peaceforce!]

I find it difficult to believe how quickly America has been drawn into several wars in my lifetime that could likely have been solved much more easily, inexpensively and civilly through peaceful measures – it’s true of Korea, Vietnam, Granada and, now, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Paranoia is one of the great problems of the American psyche. We were irrationally threatened by communism and those fears catapulted us into both Korea and Vietnam. This is certainly true in the case of Vietnam, where our adoption of the “domino theory” at that time was totally unfounded.

Our nation continues to reveal its paranoia when it comes to terrorism and that plays right into the hands of the terrorist, who seeks to strike fear into our hearts, and therefore succeeds in his mission.

The idea, which eventually gave birth to NP, was born among a group of participants at the 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace and then became a reality when it was first convened in 2002 in Surajkund, India.

“Nonviolent Peaceforce is a non-profit organisation dedicated to creating an international peaceforce of civilians trained in nonviolent strategies.

Nonviolent Peaceforce responds to requests for help anywhere in the world, using proven methods of nonviolence to protect human rights, deter violence and help create space for local peacemakers to carry out their work. The need is great: it has been estimated that as few as 1,000 people trained in nonviolence could have prevented the violence and genocide that devastated Yugoslavia in 1998. [This emphasis is not in the original.]

Nonviolent Peaceforce represents the hope of many people for an alternative to massive military intervention. It is a key component in the development of a strategic, cohesive, nonviolent response to brutality and threats of genocidal violence.”
I put part of the above quotation in bold type because it strikes me as extraordinary. I intend to soon ask what sort of strategy could have been used in my ancestor’s homeland to accomplish this. In essence, the answer to that question would explain more to us about NP and what it is than any of their statements that I include here.

On first glimpse, I am impressed – impressed enough to put my name on the dotted-line and list myself as a member.

Though the work of NP is to foster nonviolence, danger constantly lurks for their workers. One of the organization’s trained peace-makers, Umar Jaleel, was recently abducted in the Philippines and work goes on to secure his release. A press release about that abduction tells us a great deal about the philosophy and heart of NP.

While we cannot begin to address all of the misinformation contained in media reports, we wish to clarify four important points:

1. Mr. Umar Jaleel is a International civilian peacekeeper working in the Mindanao region of the Philippines, not a “Muslim religious preacher.”

2. Nonviolent Peaceforce does not pay ransom.

3. Nonviolent Peaceforce relies on nonviolent activities. We do not use armed body guards.

4. The motive for his abduction is not known, nor is the affiliation, if any, or identity of his captors.

Mr. Umar Jaleel is an experienced peaceworker who has been involved in resolving community disputes among communities in Sri Lanka prior to being deployed to the

He is a learned man speaking 6 languages who was hired by Nonviolent Peaceforce in 2004 to support our work with vulnerable families affected by armed conflict in the Trincomalee district of Sri Lanka. Jaleel was working specifically with Peace Committees, religious leaders, local government officials and merchants to build capacities for resolving local conflicts and mitigating or preventing violence against civilians. He is a well-respected member of our team and the peace worker community.

As one of Nonviolent Peaceforce’s most experienced national staff in Sri Lanka, Jaleel was asked, in 2008, to become one of NP’s international fieldworkers for our Mindanao project in the Philippines. He is the third Sri Lankan to be deployed by Nonviolent Peaceforce to the Philippines, where he is working to improve Muslim-Christian relations and support local peace organizations and structures of peace to
consolidate the peace processes. His efforts assist to maintain a fragile ceasefire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and various armed groups on the island of Basilan.

Nonviolent Peaceforce maintains excellent relations with the government of the Philippines, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the national police, local community and religious leaders, local and national NGOs in the Philippines and the various armed groups. Many of these armed groups are in negotiation with the government and are accepted by the government, as legitimate parties to the conflict. As a Sri Lankan peaceworker and a Muslim, Jaleel is widely admired and respected in the area of Basilan, where he is working. Though shocked at the news, Nonviolent Peaceforce is confident that he will be released unharmed, through the strong relationships with local communities and religious leaders who are extremely supportive of Nonviolent Peaceforce’s work there. Since this terrible incident, our friends are working tirelessly to secure Jaleel’s release.

An Incident Management Team headed by Nonviolent Peaceforce Mindanao country director Atif Hameed is coordinating the return effort in Mindanao. A Crisis Management Team headed by NP executive director Mel Duncan is coordinating the effort for wider NP.
In the coming weeks I’ll tell you more about NP and how they work. In the meantime, you might enjoy looking into the organization.

“Give peace a chance!”
Those extraordinary words were drummed into my heart and soul when I was a young man. The nation’s of the world need them drummed into their own hearts and souls.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Charlie,
    I am so pleased to hear that you enjoyed our Carnival event on Feb 24. Ann Warner let me know about your blog and your comments about NP are very thoughtful and appreciated. Thank you for your feedback and for your support!

    Natalie Brenner
    NP USA Development Coordinator